Spurs’ Gregg Popovich Doesn’t Hold Same Disdain Towards Lakers As He Used To
LeBron James, Gregg Popovich, Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2000s, the two premier franchises in the NBA were the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs. From 2000 until 2010, the two franchises won eight NBA Championships with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson winning five for the Lakers while Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich led the Spurs to three.

The two teams also had to go through each other many times during those championship runs, ultimately building up a rivalry in the process. This rivalry was built more through respect, however, and never had the level of animosity of the Lakers’ showdowns with the Sacramento Kings or Portland Trail Blazers during that time. But any time the two sides squared off, the intensity was high and two sides knew they were facing off with the best.

These days, both teams find themselves closer to the bottom of the standings than the top. The only person still around from those peak rivalry days is Popovich and he admitted that after facing Kobe and Shaq so many times, his disdain towards the Lakers and the rivalry just isn’t the same anymore, via NBA reporter Marc Stein:

Alas, nearly two decades removed from the height of the Spurs/Lakers rivalry, Popovich admits that there is realistically little of that animus that lingers from those peak levels of enmity between the teams … even when they’re in the same building. “Do I have to be honest?” Popovich said. “It ain’t the same. We always talked about the Cold War and the Soviet Union, and when that was no more it was a real letdown. … They’re still the Lakers, but after we went up against Shaq and Kobe so many times, for so many years, it’s hard to negate that and say: ‘Nah. This is the same.’ It’s just not.”

If ever there were a time where things could eventually pick back up it would have been this past week. Thanks to a bit of an odd scheduling quirk, the Lakers and Spurs faced off three times in the span of a week with L.A. taking all three contests. While a hard Zach Collins foul that busted Lakers guard Russell Westbrook open nearly led to an issue between the two teams, it is likely just an isolated incident that won’t be remembered for long.

In the end, the stakes just aren’t there for the Lakers-Spurs rivalry to truly grow to what it once was. If both teams find themselves as championship contenders then things could change, but until that happens, Popovich is right in that it just isn’t the same as it used to be.

Spurs rejected Lakers’ trade offer before start of the season

While the two sides don’t battle on the court the way they used to, the Lakers and Spurs are definitely having a lot of conversations off it as the two sides have discussed multiple different trade possibilities.

The Lakers reportedly offered Russell Westbrook and a lottery-protected first-round pick to the Spurs in exchange for Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson. The Spurs however, rejected that offer wanting an unprotected first for taking on Westbrook’s $47 million contract and talks stalled between the two sides.

But things could still pick up ahead of the trade deadline and the two sides could re-visit talks in the future. Popovich has been hesitant to maker trades with the Lakers in the past, but with these comments, maybe he is more open to it now.

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