Gregg Popovich spent his Monday morning’s press availability in Oakland ripping into Zaza Pachulia for his foul that caused Kawhi Leonard to re-injure his left ankle. That injury will keep Leonard out of the Spurs’ lineup for Game 2 against the Warriors, and the play was critiqued by many on social media for being a dirty play.
After the game, players asked about it on both sides, including Leonard, insisted it wasn’t an intentionally dirty play and just a mishap on a contested shot. However, the extra shuffle from Pachulia to get under Leonard drew criticism online and from Popovich on Monday after he watched it again. Pop called out Pachulia’s history of dirty play against the Spurs and told reporters to just go ask David West, now on the Warriors, about Pachulia after they got into it when Zaza was with the Mavs a year ago in the playoffs.
West wasn’t willing to bite on any questions about Pachulia being a dirty player, simply repeating some form of “he plays hard” over and over.
Draymond Green was also asked about Pachulia’s status as a dirty player, and considering Green has become an arbiter of such designations recently with his comments about Kelly Olynyk being dirty, you would expect that he would have some thoughts.
Nope. Quiet as a church mouse. Green is a little less forthcoming about his teammate’s transgressions than he is about the Celtics big man and others, but maybe we’ll just have to wait for his next podcast to hear his real thoughts. Even Pachulia, the man who Popovich ripped to shreds in his availability and who defended his play last night, kept his comments to a minimum and would not really respond to Pop’s rant other than to maintain his innocence as not being a dirty player.
Pachulia and other players (like West) were seen by the media at the Warriors’ facility getting briefed by the PR staff prior to their media availability, and it’s pretty easy to infer what the topic of conversation was there.
The message of “don’t escalate this” was clearly received by everyone on Golden State, as the Warriors would prefer for all of this to just go away as they make another run towards the NBA Finals. However, for as long as Kawhi is on the shelf — or even if he comes back and looks less than 100 percent — this series will be defined by the right foot of Pachulia sliding under Leonard and taking away what should have been a great, competitive series.