Best of Yardbarker: Gregg Popovich doesn't mince words


San Antonio Spurs coach has had a lot to say the past week. Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports

Facing a 2-0 deficit in the Western Conference Finals and an uncertain immediate future for All-NBA First-Teamer Kawhi Leonard, the San Antonio Spurs head home, where they hope for a better performance in Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors than they had in Game 2.

Following the 136-100 blowout loss in Oakland, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he didn't think his team believed they could win without Leonard:

He raised a few eyebrows with those post-game comments, admitting his team doubted itself. However, his comments weren't as inflammatory as his remarks about Zaza Pachulia's close-out play that ultimately injured Leonard in Game 1. In this week's NBA Referee Hotline Bling, coach Pop talked dirty and got quite the reply: "When the league called Mr. Bowen about his questionable jump shot closeouts, here’s what you said: 'The people who cry about it are just frustrated about having to go against Bruce. I told Bruce, 'You be Bruce Bowen. You're the best (expletive) defender in this league. You will NOT change the way you play defense.'"

While Popovich himself didn't make our list of the top storylines for the NBA Conference Finals, Leonard's ankle and Pachulia's play did:

20 SLIDES
Top storylines for the NBA Conference Finals

It appears there is quite a bit of bad blood flowing, particularly from the Spurs. Popovich was clearly angry, and one Spurs fan even tried to sue Pachulia for injuring Leonard. Fortunately for the league and both teams, no one has resorted to trading blows.

Tempers seem to be flaring across sports as well. Take, for instance, Wednesday's game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, which made this week's Three Up, Three Down as the lamest "fight" ever: " Both teams cleared their benches and spilled onto the field as the [Johnny Cueto and Yasmani Grandal] continued to exchange words, but here's the thing — they didn't even come close to each other! We didn't even get the traditional (and weak) pushing and shoving!"

It’s not difficult to understand why both Cueto and Grandal may be frustrated this season. Cueto is on an underachieving Giants squad that sits only ahead of the laughable San Diego Padres in the NL West and holds a 4.50 ERA, while Grandal started the season slowly before heating up this month. Plus, like the Giants, the Dodgers are looking up in the NL West standings to the surprising Colorado Rockies, albeit still playing good baseball with the second best record in the division unlike San Fran.

The Dodgers shouldn’t hang their heads too much, however. It’s not like they’re trailing a mirage team because, this time, it appears the Rockies’ underrated revival is real: "No longer are they simply rolling the balls out and hoping for the best, resigned to the fact that consistent, high-quality pitching will never be an asset they will possess. Instead, they made the decision to build from the back of the game forward, investing over $25 million into the arms of Greg Holland and Mike Dunn, with the hopes of not only revamping their bullpen, but also lowering the burden of responsibility on their starting staff and shifting it to the bullpen."

It's truly been a team effort in Colorado, as no one player is carrying the squad. That's why, even though the Rockies lead the NL West, they weren't represented in the our projections of the potential 2017 MLB All-Star starters at the quarter mark of the season, while three Dodgers and a Giant do appear on the list:

26 SLIDES
Projecting the 2017 MLB All-Stars at the quarter mark of the season

One of those players is reigning NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager of the Dodgers, who is part of the shortstop evolution that continues to raise the ceiling: "Corey Seager, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts continue to redefine what the mold of the position looks like, and Francisco Lindor, Trea Turner, Brandon Crawford, Andrelton Simmons and company continue to reaffirm its longstanding values."

Finally, we leave this weekend with the 'They just don't make 'em like Nolan Ryan anymore' quiz, a pitcher who could be credited as evolutionary in his own right, throwing major heat well into his 40s:

QUIZ: Name the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter for every MLB team

Every MLB franchise except for the Padres has had at least one pitcher toss a no-no at some point in the team's history. Can you name the last person to throw a no-hitter for each team? Looking for solo no-hitters only, not combined no-nos. Eight minutes are on the clock. 

Score:
0/29
Time:
8:00
ARZ / 2010
Edwin Jackson
ATL / 1994
Kent Mercker
BAL / 1969
Jim Palmer
BOS / 2008
Jon Lester
COL / 2010
Ubaldo Jimenez
CHC / 2016
Jake Arrieta
CHW / 2012*
Philip Humber
CIN / 2013
Homer Bailey
CLE / 1981*
Len Barker
DET / 2011
Justin Verlander
HOU / 2015
Mike Fiers
KC / 1991
Bret Saberhagen
LAA / 2012
Jered Weaver
LAD / 2014
Clayton Kershaw
MIA / 2017
Edinson Volquez
MIL / 1987
Juan Nieves
MIN / 2011
Francisco Liriano
NYM / 2012
Johan Santana
NYY / 1999*
David Cone
OAK / 2010*
Dallas Braden
PHI / 2015
Cole Hamels
PIT / 1976
John Candelaria
SEA / 2015
Hisashi Iwakuma
SF / 2015
Chris Heston
STL / 2001
Bud Smith
TB / 2010
Matt Garza
TEX / 1994*
Kenny Rogers
TOR / 1990
Dave Stieb
WAS / 2015
Max Scherzer
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