Gregg Popovich overflowed with praise for LaMarcus Aldridge.
Despite falling into an 0-2 series hole to the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs coach commended his big man for a 34-point, 12-rebound effort, and for his play all season.
“LaMarcus has been a monster all year long,” Popovich said on Monday night. “He’s led our team at both ends of the floor.
“LaMarcus has been a monster all year long.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 17, 2018
“He doesn’t complain about a darn thing out on the court. He just plays through everything. I can’t imagine being more proud of a player as far as playing through adversity and being there for his teammates night after night after night. He’s been fantastic.”
While I don’t doubt the sincerity of Pop’s acclaim for his All-Star center, it’s hard not to think his comments had another intended audience: Kawhi Leonard.
The two-way wing missed all but nine games during the regular season at the behest of his medical team.
But Spurs doctors have cleared him and his right quad to play.
Instead, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is still rehabbing, despite implorations from teammates to return. He hasn’t even joined his squad on the sidelines in these playoffs.
Pop is a pretty smart guy, and he knew exactly how praising Aldridge for his play on “both ends of the floor” and for “playing through adversity” and “being there for his teammates” would sound.
And he did it anyway.