Monday afternoon, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich did something completely out of character; he gave the media what they wanted. Golden State center Zaza Pachulia was involved in a play that injured Kawhi Leonard, so Pop trashed Zaza's history of being a dirty player. He's not wrong. Pachulia is a bruiser who isn't afraid to use his six fouls. What he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in savviness and irritability. The infamous "closeout" defensive move on a jump shooter is banned but is a still a common tactic, hence the spike in fouls on three-point shooters. Some of it is due to the closeout, and some of it is players like James Harden and Jamal Crawford using the ole Reggie Miller flaring legs technique.
Still, the play used to make players uncomfortable can also cause a turned ankle like we saw with Kawhi. Guys like Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer made the closeout a staple of their games and they weren't as lowkey about it as Zaza was. I can think of another player who was as blatant with his dirty tactics as Laimbeer and Rodman were, and not only did Pop coach him, he defended him vehemently. In an old article that popped up on reddit, Popovich goes on a similar rant but instead of shitting on Bruce Bowen's shitty way of playing defense, he goes the victim route, saying his guy is "being singled out." He also said, "The people who cry about it are just frustrated about having to go against Bruce." LMAO. Wow.
Props to Pop for playing both sides of the fence, defending hit players whether they're right or wrong. The Spurs were dogging the Warriors by 20-something when Kawhi left the game—he had 26 points in three quarters of play. The emotion Pop showed while snitching on Zaza was funny to ya boy. He was mad as if he hadn't defended Bowen karate-kicking players in the face. Bruce Bowen was a nobody until he got to the Spurs and carried out dirty play after dirty play for his coach. Although he never won a Defensive Player of the Year award, Bowen was easily in the convo with Ben Wallace and Ron Artest as one of the game's best (and dirtiest) defenders. Below are some of the Bruce Bowen antics Coach Pop defended once upon a time.
Check Bruce out fly-kicking Wally Szczerbiak in the face:
Here's a nine-minute video of his dirty defense against Kobe during the 2002 playoffs which includes multiple Draymond kicks, a step on one of Kobe's wrists, and a bunch of closeouts. He even complains when Kobe returns the favor with a closeout of his own:
Here's Bruce denying he used the closeout technique to injure guys followed by a montage of him purposely putting his foot under Vince Carter:
Check Bruce out kicking Chris Paul while he's on the floor in Sega HD:
LOL, OK, one more:
Gregg Popovich: Hall of Fame coach, hypocrite, and funny to ya boy.