Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after a play during the second quarter against the Miami Heat in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The loss of Paul George was a terrible blow to the FIBA championship aspirations of Team USA. Is Kawhi Leonard their savior for 2016?
Tim Duncan was last San Antonio Spurs player to join USA squad
One of the great thing about professional sports is that is can often be overrun with amazing ironies. The San Antonio Spurs have fielded five championship teams since the end of the 1990s. Based on that thought it would be obvious to assume that they would be well represented on the USA basketball squad during World Cup and Olympic competition. Amazingly enough, that isn’t true at all. In fact the last American-born player to represent the Spurs wearing a USA jersey in international play was Tim Duncan. When was that? In 2004. Put simply, there hasn’t been a San Antonio player in red, white and blue for a decade. The time may be coming for that to change.
Leonard using Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as guides to his play
With the 2014 FIBA World Cup right around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time for the San Antonio Spurs to make their return to the roster, this time represented properly by NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, a native of Los Angeles. However, the 23-year old instead opted out of his invitation. His reasoning came from watching veteran teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili during the 2013-2014 season. Both are longtime veterans of international play, Parker for France and Ginobili for Argentina However, their national fervor often comes with a price. Their bodies tend to wear down quicker during a season, forcing head coach Gregg Popovich to give them extended resting periods.
Following two-straight trips to the Finals, Leonard realized it was a good idea to rest his body for the upcoming title defense rather than go through the grind of the World Cup. It’s a missed opportunity for the Spurs, but the big daddy is still to come. Depending on what happens in the near future, Kawhi Leonard may be one of the prized pieces the USA can collect for their run at a gold medal in the 2016 Summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.