SAN ANTONIO (AP) The stormiest off-season in Gregg Popovich's two decades with the Spurs ended with the trade of Star Kawhi Leonard to Toronto.
And Popovich says he's fine.
The Spurs traded with Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a conditional 2019 first-round pick on Wednesday. It was clear that despite years of success with Popovich and the Spurs, Leonard was ready to leave.
"At his point, my main interest is definitely not to look back," said Popovich. I'm thrilled that DeMar and Jakob are coming to us, and from then on my focus will be on that. "
Popovich was friendly for the first time since his wife Erin's death on April 1
Popovich said that this off-season was "difficult" for him, but the 69-year-old's desire to continue training was not alleviated.
"If I can not do it anymore or do not want it or people do not want to do it with me, then I'll stop it, but I'm fine."
Popovich will be coaching loads of young talents not seen since the dawn of the Big Three by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in San Antonio – a series of major changes.
In addition to Leonard and Green, also San Antonio Parker and Kyle Anderson lost to free agency. It was particularly hard to lose Parker, with whom Popovich had entered into a patriarchal bond since the Spurs had designed the then 19-year-old Frenchman.
Parker signed a two-year contract with Charlotte after Popovich and Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford informed the 36-year-old point guard that his minutes would be limited in favor of younger players like Dejounte Murray, Derek White, Bryn Forbes and the first round Lonnie Walker from Miami.
"That was really good for Tony," said Popovich, "He will get more playing time, it will rejuvenate him a bit. I think he's really excited to be in Charlotte, and we have some young kids that we need to develop in Dejounte and Derek White and Bryn and so on. "
Led by LaMarcus Aldridge's resurgent season, the Spurs won their last 47 games of the season, reaching the playoffs for a 21st consecutive year, despite having played only nine games without Leonard, as the All-Star striker
Popovich said he believes the team this year will be more talented despite the offseason losses.
I think we have achieved a good level of performance for a very long time, more than most " said Popovich. "Hopefully this will continue and I am confident that it will be with someone like DeMar and a young player like Jakob who can develop."
The Spurs were able to re-sign Rudy Gay and add former Spurs guard Marco Belinelli. Trading for DeRozan and Poeltl continued with the mantra of short and long term planning. DeRozan is under contract for three more seasons, and Poeltl was voted ninth by Toronto in the 2016 draft.
"I thought our staff did an incredible job bringing back quality players, quality people and DeMar, a proven all-star, I have to be thrilled, and I am," said Popovich.
The Spurs hope that the addition of DeRozan and Walker along with the further development of Murray, White, Forbes and Davis Bertans along with a healthier gay will help you in the invited Western Conference.
"You have to shoot the basketball and DeMar does that well," said Popovich. "But the rest of the team that has Derek White is evolving, Bryn is coming back, Rudy is coming back, all the people who can shoot it in. Adding Marco Belinelli is important so that these things round out and help LaMarcus do his thing down there This shooting will be very helpful. "
An unknown factor is Ginobili. The veteran from Argentina has another year on his contract, but he has not decided if he will return. Popovich said Ginobili is "hunting bears in the northwest" while vacationing with his three young sons. In the hope of moving the 40-year-old back, Popovich sent a picture of Ginobili in his early years, immersing himself on an opponent.
"He sent me back a picture of me as in my first year here as an assistant," said Popovich. "I'm not sure what that means, like, 'You're crazy, you're old too.'
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