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ESPN ranks Kawhi Leonard fourth best player in the NBA

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Here are today’s best Spurs news and articles.

New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

ESPN Top 200 Player Rankings

You mean I was wrong last week and the Spurs do have a player ranked higher than LaMarcus Aldrdige? My bad. Coming in at number 4 is Kawhi Leonard. Not bad company at all, and to think he can still get better...

Before Pop was Pop

The 1996-97 Spurs are remembered for two things: being an injury-riddled team that tanked to get Tim Duncan, and Gregg Popovich taking over as head coach for the popular Bob Hill (a decision that even David Robinson initially disagreed with). Bleacher Report’s John Abrams goes behind the scenes of Pop’s lone losing season to see how he gained his players’ respect with his knowledge and attentive coaching style while truly not trying to tank.

Pop’s impact goes far beyond his own team

Detroit Piston Stanley Johnson wrote an excellent piece for the Player’s Tribune discussing what he learned from last year’s playoff defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers and how he worked to make himself better over the summer. A big part of that was being around and learning from Coach Pop as a member the U.S. Men’s Select Team.

Speaking of crusty old coaches...

Phil Jackson sat down for a one-on-one interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullen (yes, that Jackie MacMullen) to discuss various topics ranging from the Knicks, his dedication to the triangle, and his “opinion” of other teams and coaches, including Coach Pop...whom he seems to begrudgingly respect now. (Interestingly, the article mentions that she asked him about “the asterisk”, but that doesn’t show up in the transcript.)

Rant of the Day

Over the last week or so, it has been hard to ignore the fact that the Spurs have been reviewed for an unusually high amount of flagrant fouls (four if memory serves), and two have stuck: both against the Detroit Pistons in what was an otherwise drama-free affair.

One was a borderline but acceptable call on Patty Mills for pulling Jon Leuer to the ground to prevent a shot, and the other was probably the weakest flagrant ever recorded after a statuesque Pau Gasol’s hand brushed Andre Drummond’s face as he drove by. (For what it’s worth, Gasol is appealing the first ever flagrant of his career, and the refs who called it have his back.)

All this got me to thinking, when was the last time the Spurs had so many flagrants called? The best answer I could find was from sportingcharts.com, which lists how many flagrants each team received per season dating back to 2009. Eleven games in, and this is the first time the Spurs have received two in one season. Three times they had zero.

There’s no saying what has triggered this surprising trend, but even Pop looked flabbergasted last night vs. Miami when Patty was again reviewed for a flagrant after Tyler Johnson’s own momentum caused him to run into the stanchion, while at the other end Dion Waiters (unintentionally) crashed into a defenseless Gasol, causing him to dangerously fall head-first into the stanchion, and a foul wasn’t even called.

End of Rant. Have a good day!