POPOVICH SLAMS ‘COW­ARDS’

Spurs’ coach says Texas Gov. Ab­bott, Lt. Gov. Pa­trick are scared of Trump, have botched pan­demic re­sponse

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - Sun-Times wires

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich slammed Texas’ two top elected lead­ers’ han­dling of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic as “all about pol­i­tics” and called them “cow­ards” for align­ing them­selves with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and not with med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als.

“We’ve been all over the map in Texas,” Popovich said in a video­con­fer­ence with re­porters Wed­nes­day from the NBA bub­ble in Florida. “No­body knows what the hell is go­ing on.”

Popovich, a fre­quent critic of Trump, said Gov. Greg Ab­bott ap­pears to vac­il­late in his ef­forts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Texas while Lt. Gov. Dan Pa­trick is un­der­min­ing the ef­forts of Dr. An­thony Fauci, the na­tion’s chief in­fec­tious dis­ease of­fi­cial.

“The gov­er­nor goes back and forth based on whether he has to sat­isfy Trump or lis­ten to the num­bers,” Popovich said. “Pol­i­tics show maybe he bet­ter do this be­cause the virus has done that. But no over­all pol­icy, no prin­ci­ple. It’s all about pol­i­tics.”

John Wittman, Ab­bott’s spokesman, said the gov­er­nor had no plans to re­spond to Popovich’s com­ments. Pa­trick’s of­fice did not re­spond to a text mes­sage seek­ing a re­sponse.

In an ap­pear­ance on Fox News this month, Pa­trick said Fauci “doesn’t know what he’s talk­ing about” and “has been wrong ev­ery time on ev­ery is­sue.”

Popovich of­fered a caus­tic as­sess­ment of the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor’s com­ments.

“That makes a lot of sense,” he said. “How safe can that be? The mes­sag­ing is ridicu­lous.”

Popovich fre­quently weighs in on po­lit­i­cal mat­ters. In a video re­leased by the Spurs last month, Popovich aligned him­self with the demon­stra­tors protest­ing the killing of Ge­orge Floyd, a Black man who died as a white po­lice of­fi­cer knelt on his neck for about nine min­utes May 25 in Min­neapo­lis.

“It’s got to be us that speak truth to power, that call it out no mat­ter the con­se­quences,” Popovich said in the video, adding that Floyd’s death made him “em­bar­rassed as a white per­son.”

“We have to not let any­thing go. Our coun­try is in trou­ble, and the ba­sic rea­son is race.”

On the re­sponse to the pan­demic in Texas, Popovich said, “It’s all about pol­i­tics.”

“It’s all about what’s good for them,” he said. “And ‘them’ means Trump. Be­cause they’re all cow­ards, and they’re all afraid.”

Zion leaves bub­ble for fam­ily mat­ter

Pel­i­cans for­ward Zion Wil­liamson left the NBA’s cam­pus site Wed­nes­day be­cause of what the team called “an ur­gent fam­ily med­i­cal mat­ter.”

The Pel­i­cans added that Wil­liamson “in­tends to re­join the team in Or­lando for the NBA restart at a later date.” The Pel­i­cans have scrim­mages against the Nets (July 22), Nuggets (July 25) and Bucks (July 27) be­fore their opener against the Lak­ers on July 30, when the league restarts its sea­son.

“We fully sup­port Zion’s de­ci­sion to leave the NBA cam­pus to be with his fam­ily,” Pel­i­cans ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions David Grif­fin said in a state­ment. “Out of re­spect for the Wil­liamson fam­ily, we will have no fur­ther com­ment at this time.”

Ac­cord­ing to the NBA’s health and safety pro­to­cols, all play­ers are ex­pected to re­main on cam­pus. But the pro­to­cols say that play­ers can leave for ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances and “only with prior league ap­proval for such ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances.”

If Wil­liamson re­turns to cam­pus, he is sub­ject to en­hanced COVID-19 test­ing. He could also be sub­ject to a 10-day quar­an­tine when he re­turns. Wil­liamson could spend only four days in quar­an­tine when he re­turns, how­ever, as long as he un­der­goes COVID-19 test­ing each day he is off cam­pus and re­turns a neg­a­tive test. This pro­ce­dure re­quires ap­proval by an in­fec­tious dis­ease doc­tor.

Harden back with Rock­ets

NBA scor­ing leader James Harden of the Rock­ets prac­ticed with his team for the first time in more than four months Thurs­day, say­ing his ar­rival at the league’s restart bub­ble was de­layed by fam­ily is­sues. Harden ar­rived this week, sat­is­fied his league-man­dated quar­an­tine re­quire­ments and got cleared to par­tic­i­pate. He has been work­ing out but said Thurs­day was his first time play­ing five-on-five bas­ket­ball with con­tact in more than a month. His ar­rival means Hous­ton fi­nally has half of its start­ing back­court. On Mon­day, guard Rus­sell West­brook re­vealed that he tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19. It’s not known when West­brook will be ready to ar­rive.

GETTY IM­AGES (ABOVE), AP

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had some harsh words for Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott (bot­tom photo, right) and Lt. Gov. Dan Pa­trick (left).

AP

Zion Wil­liamson

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