Jun 20, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks against Miami Heat power forward Chris Andersen (11) during game seven in the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mike Erhmann-Getty/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
He is 21 years old and has already got so much praise from around the league and his head coach. Gregg Popovich sat down with David Flores from Kens5 and had more praise for the what many people feel will be the ‘future’ of Spurs basketball, Kawhi Leonard.
First year in the league and being able to roll through the playoffs with a team that has future Hall of Famers is what many people can only dream of. For Kawhi Leonard, he is living it. A player that does not show emotion after he throws down a dunk, or he gets called for a foul, what you see is what you get.
Jun 20, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) lays the ball up past Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (1) during the third quarter of game seven in the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Leonard in the Finals averaged, 14.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.0 steals, in game seven, he had his coming out party, 19 points and 16 rebounds.
“That’s a really happy story,” Popovich said when asked about Leonard’s development. “You wouldn’t know it looking at Kawhi’s face, because it never changes. You don’t know if he’s happy or sad. His demeanor and his approach have been so mature beyond his years. He’s basically a senior in college. He went through the Finals of the playoffs as if he was going to H-E-B to pick up dinner or something.”
He has grown to be one of my favorite players on the Spurs team. I love his demeanor on the floor. When he gets called for a foul, he is not quick to talk to the referee’s, make a point of where he was and how it was not a foul. He is a player that is there for one thing, play basketball and leave everything out on the floor every time he touches it.
Popovich was then asked about his youngster’s performance through-out the Finals.
“He was unbelievable. That’s both in his poise, in his skill development, which, again, Chip and Chad get credit for, and his reaction to wins, his reaction to losses. The way he mingled with teammates, the way he learned from them. Unbelievably coachable. Hard worker. He’s going to be a future star, because he’s like a babe in the woods still.”
May 19, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the first half of game three of the Western Conference semi finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Having a Hall of Fame coach in Popovich at your side and a coaching staff that does wonders when developing players. Leonard has no ego. He doesn’t walk around the floor or in practice as if he already knows what he needs to do. As Pop stated, he is coachable. There are not to many players in the league that still feel they can improve. Leonard knows that he is in a spot that many people would die for.
Leonard through-out the season has been known for his defensive ability. For his size he has become a great rebounder as well as starting to come on as a scorer. Popovoich in the interview stated that he did not even call plays for Leonard and he is already doing things.
I don’t even call plays for him and you see what he does out on the court,” Popovich said. “He’s just beginning to feel his way and he’ll be getting the ball more and more as time goes on.”
I have said this before and will continue to. San Antonio has been graced as well as spoiled with the players that have come through San Antonio and we are able to watch them grow, year after year. Kawhi Leonard is going to be another one of those players.
This is going to be a real treat.