The Gopher & The Bobcat: A Conversation Between Gregg Popovich & Kawhi Leonard

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“Miguel? I don’t care about him. Stop singing to me, Kawhi. I haven’t heard Adorn or whatever it is and I don’t plan on hearing it.”

Gregg Popovich is tired. His eyes are dead like a sky after a tornado and he sits in his recliner, tired of watching film on the Grizzlies. He’s worn down and all he wants to do is think about something that isn’t Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. He’s on the phone with Kawhi Leonard, trying to get him to stop watching the Billboard Music Awards and starting watching North America.

“Sorry,” says Leonard, “Whatchu mean North America?”

“Geez,” says Popovich, “You get Discovery channel don’t you? We pay you enough, I know you got Dish or something.”

“Yea,” Leonard answers, “I get it.”

“Well flip it over there then.”

“Oh,” says Leonard, “This that show like Planet Earth?”

“Yea,” says Popovich, “‘Cept this is just for North America.”

Popovich is reclined back and he sips on his coffee. He keeps it the way he keeps his soul: black. Black like the night. Black like death.

On Leonard’s screen is a gopher and a bobcat. The bobcat is hunting, the gopher is hiding. The bobcat waits, patiently, treading softly in the brush while the gopher ducks in and out of the holes he’s burrowed in the dirt.

“Want you to watch this, K,” says Popovich, “You see how the bobcat just waits? He knows the gopher’s going to make a mistake. There’s too many deficiencies there.”

A closeup of the gopher. A fly lands on its whiskers and the gopher shakes them and the fly flies off. It goes back inside its hole. Leonard is watching intently on his end as Tom Selleck’s voice purrs in his San Antonio home. Popovich talking all the while.

“He’s content there, the bobcat,” says Popovich, “He’s done the work and now all he has to do is wait and react when the time is right. The gopher has terrible eye site. He can’t hear. He can smell some, but really he can only feel the vibrations around him. It takes him less than a second to get back in that hole, but if you time it right…”

The bobcat leaps up the air on the screen and dives into the thicket. It reappears, gopher in tow, laying dead in its jaws.

“Bam,” says Popovich, “Look at him. That’s a kill there, boy.”

The bobcat then starts to toss the gopher in the air like a toy ball. Over and over again it tosses it up, celebrating its meal.

“This is cool, coach,” says Leonard, “But what’s the point?”

“Watch, Kawhi,” says Popovich, “See that gopher? That’s Conley. That bobcat? That’s you.”

Then Popovich hangs up and tosses the phone in the floor in front of his chair. He downs the rest of his coffee, declines his recliner, and walks into the bathroom. Leonard sits on the other end of the line a new man. The phone hums to him.

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