Popovich grabs mic during FTs to tell crowd to stop booing Kawhi (0:45)Gregg Popovich grabs a microphone during the middle of Kawhi Leonard's free throw attempts to ask the crowd to stop booing. (0:45)
SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich grabbed the PA announcer's microphone during Wednesday night's game against the LA Clippers and asked the home fans to stop booing while former Spurs standout Kawhi Leonard shot a pair of free throws.
Leonard stepped to the line with 3:06 left in the second quarter. As the crowd began booing during Leonard's first free throw, Popovich briefly spoke to crew chief Tyler Ford before walking over to the scorer's table.
"Excuse me for a second," Popovich said to the crowd. "Can we stop all the booing and let these guys play? Have a little class. That's not who we are. Knock off the booing."
When asked about the moment postgame, Popovich said his message was about not wanting fans to give Leonard any extra motivation.
"I think anybody that knows anything about sports -- you don't poke the bear," Popovich said.
Popovich repeatedly went back to the "don't poke the bear" comment when responding to follow-up questions.
Leonard, who scored 18 of his game-high 26 points after Popovich addressed the crowd, said he wasn't fully aware of what happened in the moment until speaking with people after the game.
"I was just in the moment trying to knock down my free throws," he said.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he chastised the crowd for booing Kawhi Leonard because he didn't want to give Leonard any extra motivation. Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images
After Popovich's announcement, the boos got louder and louder at the Frost Bank Center. The boos came not only for Leonard when he touched the ball but for anyone else on the Clippers, especially when James Harden found his way to the free throw line.
The Clippers won 109-102 for their seventh straight victory over the Spurs.
Since Leonard was traded from the Spurs in 2018, he has been regularly booed whenever he has returned to San Antonio, a common practice from fans toward players who have left franchises on bad terms.
The Clippers defeated the Spurs on Monday night, and the boos were the same for Leonard throughout the game.
Leonard said he understands what kind of reaction he will receive any time he returns to San Antonio.
"If I don't have a Spurs jersey on, they're probably going to boo me the rest of my career," Leonard said. "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."