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Even with his team in the NBA’s Western Conference Finals against the league’s super team, the Golden State Warriors, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich can’t keep himself from worrying about what is happening in the United States.
Asked before Sunday’s Game 1 of the Spurs’ best-of-seven series against the three-time defending Western Conference champions if he gets distracted by what’s going on in the outside world, Popovich spoke about what he called “a pall over the whole country.”
“It’s interesting that you would ask that,” Popovich replied to a reporter who asked if the political turmoil that has followed the inauguration of President Donald Trump has been a distraction. “Because usually things happen in the world and you go to work and you’ve got your family and you’ve got your friends and you do what you do. But to this day, I feel like there is a cloud, or pall, over the whole country in a paranoid, surreal sort of way.”
Popovich never mentioned President Trump by name, but it was whom he was referring to when he labeled the conduct of “one individual” as embarrassing.
“It has nothing to do with the Democrats losing the election,” Popovich said. “It’s got to do with the way one individual conducts himself, and it’s embarrassing. It’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be. But for this individual, he’s in a game show and everything that happens begins and ends with him, not our people or our country. Every time he talks about those things, that’s just a ruse. That’s just disingenuous, cynical, and fake.”
The Warriors made Popovich’s remarks available via email.
Popovich had presaged Sunday’s comments in remarks made after a Spurs practice session that preceded the team’s flight to Oakland. While discussing Mike Brown, his former Spurs assistant who has stepped in for ailing Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Popovich committed a Freudian slip, referring to Brown’s coaching presence as “president.”
“’President’ is on my mind a lot these days,” Popovich said then. “There’s no escaping it. I don’t think many of us thought we’d be in this position. We certainly hoped he would do well and hoped that there would be less drama. It certainly obfuscates the job at hand in many, many ways for many people, and that’s too bad.”
The Spurs coach may need a distraction after the heartbreak of his team’s 113-111 loss, a result that included the loss of his best player, two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. The top scorer for the Spurs all season, Leonard had scored 26 points when he stepped on the foot of Warriors center Zaza Pachulia and re-sprained his left ankle. He first sprained the ankle on May 9, during Game 5 of the Spurs’ Western Conference Semifinals series against the Houston Rockets.