Was Pop's Effusive Praise of LaMarcus Aldridge a Shot at Kawhi Leonard?

Was Gregg Popovich merely praising LaMarcus Aldridge, or was he shading Kawhi? Fans have some theories.

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With Kawhi Leonard out of the picture for most of this season, LaMarcus Aldridge has stepped up as the San Antonio Spurs' go-to guy. L.A., who signed with San Antonio in 2015, has played his best basketball in a Spurs uniform. 

Aldridge averaged 23.1 points on 51 percent shooting from the floor this year, and he added 8.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He'll likely be a first- or second-team All-NBA selection. And though the Spurs have struggled through two games in their first-round series with the Warriors, Aldridge has remained great.

In the Spurs' loss Monday night, Aldridge put up 34 points and 12 rebounds. After the game, his coach, Gregg Popovich, dished out effusive praise.

"LaMarcus has been a monster all year long," Pop said. "He's led our team on both ends of the floor. 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."

Check out his full press conference above.

Of course, Pop might have intended merely to praise Aldridge, which would be well-deserved. But that hasn't stopped many from speculating that Pop was taking a thinly veiled shot at Kawhi, who has been cleared to play by the team's medical staff but is working with his own team in New York.

This is totally not at all a message to someone who may or may not be watching from New York. Totally. https://t.co/aA4pfEqM5V

Leonard's future with the team isn't clear at this point. He'll be an unrestricted free agent in 2019. For all we know, he may just be taking his time to rehab because he doesn't trust the team doctors' clearance. Team doctors don't always prioritize players' long-term health. Still, that hasn't stopped the rumors about Kawhi wanting out from swirling around the NBA internet circles.

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