He has become a fan favorite. He is a player that does not show much emotion. Though he is starting to breakout a little and show is humorous side, Leonard lets his play on the court do all the talking.
Being selected 15th overall in the NBA Draft to now being an NBA Champion, Defensive Player of the Year as well as NBA Finals MVP, Leonards stardom is taking off.
Jeff McDonald, writer for MYSA, recently spoke with San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich on the rise of Leonard.
Leonard has become a defensive stopper. His task each game is to defend the Spurs opponents best player. He has gone up against the likes of, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade just to name a few. To each and every one of them, he has stepped up to the challenge.
Oct 28, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs forwardKawhi Leonard
(2) shoots the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder forwardKevin Durant
(35) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
McDonald asked Popovich if there is any room for improvement at all for Leonard at the defensive end:
“I don’t know if you’d call it improvement, but his goal would be to sustain it. To not just become an offensive player and forget being a defender. That’s what we want him to do first off, more than anything, is defend and rebound. So far he keeps that as his priority. It kind of fuels his offense a little bit.”
Could not agree more with this statement. Looking back at his profile over at Draft Express, Leonards defense was obviously noticed:
“His defensive versatility was obvious, but his offensive inefficiency and lack of a signature skill on that end of the floor made the answer to that question even less clear.”
How times have changed, right? Leonard has worked on both sides of his game. What can be noticed is his offensive outburst thus far this season. In the teams opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on National TV, Leonard exploded.
Through four games, he has been the teams best player hands down. With his style of play recently and the improvement he has shown, this only leads Popovich to believe that he has the ability to do what Michael Jordan did on both sides.
“He has the ability to do what a Michael Jordan did at both ends. I don’t mean he’s Michael Jordan, but Michael played both ends of the floor.”
As Popovich stated and made clear, Leonard is not Michael Jordan. Drawing any sort of comparison to the best basketball player alive surely will draw more and more media attention.
Popovich ended his Q&A with McDonald with a quote on Leonard and the kind of person that he is. Truly feel this is one of the reasons why Popovich is so respected in the league and by the players. He takes the time to know who they are on a personal level as well as professional.
“He wants to find his place in the world. He’s a young kid. The first year or two, he stayed with his mom. He had a close family situation. He’s not worldly in the sense of having traveled and been places. He’s a quiet guy, like Timmy. But over time, the players have loosened him up. Humor is really important to us in the program. We needle him about it. Slowly, but surely he started to speak to everybody a bit more. He’s an intelligent kid. He’s just a man of few words.”
San Antonio and their fans are in a good place right now to see what this team has done and will continue to do. Also, already seeing the type of player that Leonard is turning into and how he is handling the stardom, you can tell he is pretty humble.
That is what models the Spurs organization from top to bottom.