Did the San Antonio Spurs’ dethroning of the Miami Heat lead to LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers? Cynics say so, but Gregg Popovich thinks that’s a belief driven by media-helmed narrative. In advance of his team’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, the reigning Coach of the Year defended James by holding reporters responsible for scrutiny constantly facing the four-time MVP.
Asked his thoughts on the notion that the Miami Heat’s loss to the Spurs in June led to James going home, Popovich demurred in typical fashion. Via Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:
“Nothing,” he said in typical Popovich fashion. “You guys have to have something to say. I’d be saying the same stuff if I had your job…It’s cool.”
But was Popovich surprised LeBron fled Miami after such a humbling defeat at the hands of San Antonio? Pop wouldn’t let this golden opportunity to blast reporters go to waste, and even expanded on the question’s scope to defend James:
“No. I always thought you guys always had something to say,” he responded. “If LeBron went right, you said he should have gone left. If he shot, he should have passed it. If he passed it, he should have shot it and I always thought that was all baloney.”
“He’s a great player. He’s not just athletic. He’s incisive. He understands the game the way Magic [Johnson} did, the way Larry [Bird] did, the way Tim Duncan does. He knows a whole lot more of about what he’s doing and what he has been doing then you all. He’s a character guy, he’s good people, and he’s got a great heart.”
There’s never been any ill-will between Popovich and James. After the Heat stole a title from the Spurs in 2013, Pop seemed genuinely happy for LeBron’s triumph:
These playful quotes not withstanding, say what you will about Pop’s relationship with the media. He’s brash and boorish all too often while fulfilling league-mandated obligations to help people do their jobs. There’s no debate otherwise, even if you find the majority of his pre- and post- game antics amusing.
But it’s stuff like this that matters far more. The NBA is a fraternity, and Popovich is head of the house – he’ll defend any member that deserves his attention.
What do you think?
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