The Slatest

Trump Cannonballs Into NBA v. China Fracas by Going After Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr?

President Trump cannonballed into the NBA v. China fracas Wednesday in, predictably, the most non sequitur fashion, aiming his criticism at two NBA coaches, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors. When asked about the dispute set off by a tweet last week from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the protests in Hong Kong, Trump had a lot of tough guy trash talk—for Popovich, the head coach of the U.S.A. team this past summer and his assistant, Kerr. “They have to work out their own situation,” Trump said of the NBA’s standoff with China, before pivoting. “But I watched the way Kerr, Popovich, and some of the others were pandering to China… and to our own country, it’s like they don’t respect it. It’s very sad.”

Both Popovich and Kerr have been highly critical of Trump in the past and the president showed that no slight is too small; he’s always listening. “I watched this guy, Steve Kerr, and he was like a little boy who was so scared to be even answering the question,” Trump continued. “He couldn’t answer the question. He was shaking. ‘Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know.’ He didn’t know how to answer the question. And yet he’ll talk about the United States very badly.”

On Monday, just as the dust up was heating up, Kerr demurred in the wake of Morey’s “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” tweet. “It’s a really bizarre international story, and a lot of us don’t know what to make of it,” Kerr said. “So it’s something I’m reading about just like everybody is, but I’m not going to comment further than that.”

Trump also went after Popovich. “I watched Popovich. Sort of the same thing, but he didn’t look quite as scared actually,” Trump said. “But they talk badly about the United States, but when it talks about China, they don’t want to say anything bad. I thought it was pretty sad actually. It’ll be very interesting.” Popovich’s public remarks Tuesday were in praise of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s handling of the situation. “He came out strongly for freedom of speech today. I felt great again. He’s been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous,” Popovich said. “Then you compare it to what we’ve had to live through the past three years, it’s a big difference. A big gap there, leadership-wise and courage-wise.”

Meanwhile, in the pandering department, last week America’s tough guy-in-chief tweeted a congratulatory message to China: “Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!”