I have been very reluctant to elaborate on the controversy surrounding Kawhi Leonard’s injury by Zaza Pachulia during Sunday’s game, but I feel I need to address this issue before tonight’s game.
It is completely understandable that people are debating whether Pachulia intentionally fouled Leonard using dirty attacks or if the whole thing was an accident.
It is completely understandable that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich feels that Pachulia’s action — intentional or not — crossed into “unsportsmanlike” territory.
It is completely understandable that Spurs fans are expressing a lot of anger towards Pachulia for injuring their star player — one who won the NBA Finals MVP award during the Spurs’ last Finals victory in 2014.
What I feel is unnecessary is the possibility of Spurs fans creating a rivalry with the Golden State Warriors — similar to that of the Spurs’ rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers — as a result of Pachulia’s foul. I say this because the Warriors have two important connections to the Spurs in Coach Steve Kerr and Assistant Coach Mike Brown.
Brown worked under Coach Pop as an assistant coach for the Spurs in the 2002-03 season. This was David Robinson’s final season as a Spurs player. The Spurs won their second NBA championship in the summer of 2003.
Part of the reason the Spurs won the title that year, which allowed David Robinson to retire on top, is thanks to Steve Kerr, who played for the Spurs in the 2002-03 season. Anyone who is a fan of the Chicago Bulls or the San Antonio Spurs knows how great of a clutch player Kerr was back in his playing days.
In Game 6 of the 2003 Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs were trailing the Mavericks by 15 points with 3:44 remaining in the third quarter. Kerr managed to score 12 points in 13 minutes, making 100% of his four three-point attempts. The Spurs went on to win that game, and the Western Conference Finals, with a final score of 90-78.
Who knows what would’ve happened if it wasn’t for Kerr’s clutch shots in that game?
Let me be very clear: I have not and will not jump to conclusions about Pachulia’s foul on Leonard. However, Spurs fans have every right to speak out and publicly voice their opinion on this matter, as long as they’re not harassing Pachulia (or any other Warriors player).
Part of being a sports fan is being passionate about and loyal to your favorite team. Naturally, rivalries will occur when dramatic incidents like this unfold. However, I advise Spurs fans to remember that the Warriors have very significant connections to the legacy of the Spurs.
The Warriors team is, first and foremost, Steve Kerr’s team. Without Kerr’s heroics in Game 6 of the 2003 Western Conference Finals, we might not have won the championship that season. Not to mention Mike Brown was the assistant coach of the Spurs in this particular season.
Without these important connections, I would be all for a Spurs-Warriors rivalry. But mainly because I remember how much Kerr helped out the Spurs in the 2003 playoffs, I simply can’t support a Spurs-Warriors rivalry — for now at least.