Gregg Popovich grabs arena mic, pleads with Spurs fans to stop booing Kawhi Leonard mid-game

Kawhi Leonard was at the free-throw line in the 2nd quarter when his former coach Gregg Popovich addressed fans directly on Wednesday night

Gregg Popovich was not having it on Wednesday night.

The San Antonio Spurs coach, late in the second quarter of their 109-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, rushed to the microphone at Frost Bank Center in San Antonio. Popovich, with former Spurs star Kawhi Leonard shooting free throws for the Clippers, was livid with how Spurs fans were treating Leonard.

“Excuse me for a second. Can we stop all the booing and let these guys play?” Popovich told fans while Leonard was bent over between free throws. “It’s got no class. It’s not who we are. Knock off the booing.”

Popovich then walked away and made a gesture with his arms while some fans briefly clapped. The boos then quickly returned.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard after a Wednesday's game at Frost Bank Center. (Scott Wachter/USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard after a Wednesday's game at Frost Bank Center. (Scott Wachter/USA TODAY Sports)

Leonard first got his start with the Spurs in 2011 after the organization traded for him on draft night with the No. 15 overall pick. Leonard spent seven seasons in San Antonio and helped the franchise to an NBA title in 2014.

His exit from San Antonio, however, was rough. Leonard played in just nine games during the 2017-18 campaign due to a lingering quad injury, which he and the franchise allegedly disagreed on how to handle. That led their relationship to grow contentious and eventually the Spurs dealt him to the Toronto Raptors. He won a championship there, and has been with the Clippers since 2019.

The boos on Wednesday night, though, are nothing new. Since Leonard’s departure, Spurs fans have been booing him consistently every time he’s in town. They’re apparently still not over his exit even after the franchise landed French sensation Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft earlier this year. The Leonard era is long behind them.

Still, Popovich is clearly going to try and do everything in his power to stop the boos. Spurs fans just aren't willing to listen.

"If I don't have a Spurs jersey on, they're probably going to boo me the rest of my career," Leonard said after the game, via ESPN's Andrew Lopez. "But I mean, it is what it is. Like I said, they're one of the best fans in the league and they're very competitive. Once I step out on this basketball court out here, they show that they're going for the other side.

"When I'm on the streets or going into restaurants, they show love. So it is what it is."

Leonard, 32, entered the game averaging 21 points and 5.3 rebounds this season. After holding the Spurs to just 14 points in the first quarter, the Clippers led nearly the entire game Wednesday en route to the seven-point win. Leonard led the Clippers with 26 points, four rebounds and four assists. Paul George finished with 24 points and eight rebounds, and James Harden added 16 points and nine assists.

Wembanyama dropped a team-high 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Spurs. He had a huge lob dunk midway through the third quarter, too.

The Spurs are just 3-12 on the season with their latest loss, which marked their 10th straight. They'll take on the Golden State Warriors on Friday in the NBA in-season tournament. The Spurs, though, have already been eliminated from advancing.