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Kawhi Leonard’s hand injury an ‘alternative fact’ to Gregg Popovich

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich talks during

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich talks during a press conference before a game against the Phoenix Suns at the Mexico City Arena, in Mexico City, Mexico, on Jan. 14, 2017. Credit: EPA / Jose Mendez

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich hasn’t been shy about expressing his disappointment with some of the views and conduct of new President Donald Trump, and he couldn’t resist a humorous jab at the new administration when the opportunity presented itself during his meeting with the media before facing the Nets Monday night at Barclays Center.

Delivering the news that star forward Kawhi Leonard would not play, Popovich said it was because he had “an injury that’s really not an injury.” When a reporter repeated that phrase and wondered what it meant, Popovich smiled and said, “It’s a figurative statement. It sounds like some of the things that are going on politically in the world.”

Recognizing that as a reference to presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway describing recent comments by White House press secretary Sean Spicer about the size of the Inauguration Day crowd as “alternative facts,” several reporters kidded Popovich about doing the same thing.

“I apologize,” Popovich said. “I just gave an alternative fact. I shouldn’t have done that. But it wasn’t a lie. Don’t try to pin that on me.”

Imitating Trump scolding the press corps, Popovich added, “I’m tired of you guys pinning that on me.”

More seriously, Popovich then explained that Leonard’s left hand “got whacked” in a couple games recently and was very sore, but since there was no break or need for an X-ray, he didn’t consider it a real injury.

Popovich also had more kind words for first-year Nets general manager Sean Marks, who worked under him with the Spurs organization. “He’s one of my favorite people of all time,” Popovich said of the former NBA center. “The big lug. He’s intelligent, humorous, hard-working, great fun to be around, has a great knack for the game and understands what it takes, and he’s got the staying power and the persistence to use the long view and get it done the right way. He’s a special guy.”

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