Gregg Popovich shrugs off ‘namby-pambiest’ NBA scuffles

NBA: Recent scuffles and skirmishes have been thrust into the spotlight, with three players handed 2-game suspensions. The Spurs’ venerable coach thinks they’re simply silly.

By Jamal Murphy, PSN Basketball Analyst

Don’t count Gregg Popovich among those who think the NBA has a new fighting problem.

“Oh, you mean those typical NBA fights?” the San Antonio Spurs coach before Wednesday’s game in Brooklyn, mimicking the classic “hold-me-back” NBA player confrontation.

“The NBA fights are the silliest, namby-pambiest things I’ve ever seen in my life,” he continued. “Except there was that one in the stands a few years ago (Pacers-Pistons 2004). That one got ugly. But nobody wants those fights. Even the players don’t want those fights, but sometimes emotions happen and people get out of sorts.”

This week, though, emotions seem to be running a little high.

Two altercations tainted Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Two Rockets allegedly tried to enter the Clippers’ locker room after the game, resulting in two-game suspensions for Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green. Then there was the funny-but-not-funny visual of Ben Simmons challenging a game Kyle Lowry to a locker-room hallway duel after both were ejected from a Toronto-Philadelphia game.

Nor was NBA fighting was limited just to an MLK Day of presumed peace. Orlando’s Arron Affalo lost control Tuesday and barely missed Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica with a wild haymaker (pictured). Affalo also was suspended for two games.

Asked if he noticed an uptick in fighting around the league, Popovich rejected the idea.

“No. Guys are slapping hands and slapping butts before the game and after the game and slobber all over each other,” he said.

“Nobody wants to get hurt, nobody wants to see anybody get hurt, everybody wants to get along. And there’s rivalries – when you’re playing the game you want to kick everyone’s butt, that’s the way it goes. But there’s no uptick in aggression or anything like that.”