Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says Kawhi Leonard will be benched for game two of the western conference against Warriors after he re-injured his strained ankle on a controversial play Sunday.
When asked Monday about a time frame for Kawhi’s return, Popovich said “We’ll see what the MRI says, but obviously he won’t play tomorrow.”
Leonard originally suffered the ankle injury in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets but was forced to leave Game 1 on Sunday after re-injuring his left ankle in the third quarter when Zaza Pachulia’s foot slid under his following a jumper. Pachulia denied that he intended to injure the forward however, Popovich angrily compared Pachulia’s actions to that of a manslaughter charge after the team lost 113-111 loss to the Warriors.
“A two-step, lead-with-your-foot closeout is not appropriate,” he said.” “It’s dangerous, it’s unsportsmanlike. It’s just not what anybody does to anybody else. And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action.”
“He has this history, it can’t just be, ‘Oh, it’s inadvertent. He didn’t have intent,'” Popovich continued. “Who gives a damn about what his intent was. You ever hear of manslaughter? You still go to jail, I think, when you’re texting and you end up killing somebody but you might not have intended to do that. All I care about is what I saw. All I care about is what happened and the history there exacerbates the whole situation and makes me very, very angry.”
After hearing Popovich’s comment Monday, Pachulia said he did what he was always taught and it was the right move from his side.
“[The criticism] doesn’t bother me,” Pachulia said. “I did whatever I had to do. That was the right defense from my side. I had to challenge the shot. I wish he didn’t land on my foot and honestly and I had no idea he landed on it until I turned back and he was already on the ground.”
The NBA announced Monday that Pachulia will not face any discipline and the play will stand as called.