Did Pop Go Too Far? Zaza Says Yes

Zaza Pachulia said he and his family are getting death threats after Gregg Popovich went on his very angry rant directed at Pachulia. Did Pop take it a little too far? Did he cross the line?

C.J. Hampshire: I think so. I was struck by his sheer anger. You could feel it coming out his eyeballs. He lost his best player and any chance of the series being competitive was toast. But he made it seem worse than some basketball moment. Whether he intended it or not, he came off as if he had no trust in Aldridge to do what the Spurs do, next man up. He destroyed Pachulia. He’s Pop. He’s the best coach. I think he lost sight of the moment.

Valerie Morales: Listening to what he actually said was hard. It’s a different calculus for someone like me who has had someone in my family murdered. To hear him casually throw out manslaughter because of a basketball play, as if it was some anecdote to hand the press to explain a foul that may not have been appropriate, was crossing the line in a big way.  He was not using the correct analogy to make his point. He was being sensationally livid.  He introduced manslaughter into a discussion about basketball. The context was wrong. This is a basketball game at the end of the day. But I also thought if you peeled the layers back, he was stating pretty clearly what his team absent Kawhi really is. This is the first year you have seen the Spurs call this many iso plays. He knew they were done.

Mallory Stith-Wheat: Had it been after the game then it would have been him letting off steam, okay I see that. But this was after practice when the reality set in. No Kawhi.  Pop is not responsible for the behavior of stupid people. No one blames him for the death threats. Was his reaction appropriate? Yes. Were his words an exaggeration.  Yes.

Brendan Gillespie: Pop doesn’t mince words and he was emotional but at the same time he is very, very smart. This is the irony. Pop humiliates reporters when they say the wrong thing the wrong way. He makes them feel stupid and in that moment maybe they are. But now here he is and he says something extreme to make a point at how pissed he is and no one calls him out because of his influence on the game and his history and straight out excellence as a coach. He went too far. Pachulia did the same thing Bruce Bowen did and hundred of NBA defenders have done. It sucks that Kawhi is out but it’s part of the game too.

Is Zaza the point in all of this? If that was, say, Igoudala, would this be an issue at all? Pop would have sulked but not gone the nuclear option.

Valerie: The Finals MVP? I think radio silence would have been the rule of the day with Iggy.

Brendan: You are your reputation. Is it fair? No. But Zaza is a role player who found himself on the wrong side of a star and his playoff run being over. Let’s reverse it. If that was Aldridge and he did the exact same thing to Curry, Mike Brown wouldn’t have lost his mind like Pop but he would have been pretty ticked. But that is the Warriors advantage. They can lose Curry knowing they have Durant. The Spurs have no such luck.

Mallory: Welcome to 2017. This is what you get when an active fan base and the social media intersect.  People feel empowered to say whatever they want to say and they don’t think of the effects of NBA players being real people with families and children who can be hurt because you are on Twitter acting like an a___hole.  Zaza is like many players in the league. He is a role player. He plays hard. He was the villain in the Kawhi injury and unfortunately for him his kids have to pay the price.

C.J.: I think Zaza and other players like him- by others I mean non-starters, role players, foreign players because you have to add that in the mix too- get on players and coaches nerves. But this is a game about competing. And competing hard. That’s Zaza’s game. Something unfortunate happened. It would have been blown off it was a star perpetrating the crime.

Is there a link between Pop’s words and the anger of some Spurs fans (and Warriors haters) who reacted like second graders?

Brendan: Absolutely. We see it with Donald Trump. Trump acted a certain way at his rallies when he was running for president. Now you see that same lack of verbal control at town halls. When people of influence react aggressively it trickles down.

C.J.:  You can’t have it both ways. You can’t cling to what Pop says and then not cling. If his opinion matters in one thing, it matters in all things. There are going to be stupid people who act on his anger like they are doing him a favor.

Valerie:  There is causation, yes. But it is not his fault that some loser goes on Zaza’s Twitter page and threatens his family.

Mallory: You have a lot of half brain people out there that put sports in a category it doesn’t belong. They hear Pop’s anger and then they feel angry too. I don’t blame him. I just wish he had toned it down five degrees.

Did Pop make a mistake in assuming LaMarcus Aldridge had the Type-A on court personality to be a leader? He gleefully signed him to a max contract.

Brendan: Yes but it was a miscalculation every coach would make if they were in his shoes. In the free agent sweepstakes, unless you’re dealing with a top-5 player, you don’t really know how it is going to work out. You hope for the best. Aldridge had that playoff series against Houston where he dropped back to back 40 point games. It blurred the narrative.

Mallory: The only miscalculation he made was believing Aldridge could play a lick of defense. Look, no one was going to replace Tim Duncan. If you say he is the best power forward of all time than you are also admitting whoever follows him is going to be extremely flawed.

Valerie: He wasn’t wrong.  His job is to bring experienced talent into his system. Usually the Spurs system works. But Aldridge is one of those sensitive scorers who loses confidence mid-game if his shot isn’t going and he doesn’t do any of the other basketball things particularly well to balance out those off games. I think his assist average in this series is 1.0.

C.J.: L.A. never should have left Portland. It was a perfect setup. He had Lillard and  McCollum. He had a die hard basketball loving community that lives and breathe Blazers 24-7. They are the only thing in town. The grass ain’t always greener.