Kawhi Leonard coming out of San Diego State, may not have been a well-known player and on many teams radars, but now, he is silently becoming a superstar.
The 6-foot-7 small forward has proven in his young four-year career that hard work does pay off. Already an NBA Champion, Finals Most Valuable Player and also Defensive Player of the Year under his belt, Leonard still has a lot of basketball left.
Leonard whom has seen his scoring average increase each year, wants to become the best player in the league and importantly, help lead the San Antonio to the Finals. Against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, Leonard was all business as he sunk what would be the game winner over the outstretched arm of a Utah defender. Sports Illustrated had a feature on Leonard and Head Coach Gregg Popovich stated how bad Leonard wants to be great.
“He does not give a damn about the stardom”. – Gregg Popovich on Leonard
“He wants the greatness badly,” Popovich says. “He doesn’t give a damn about the stardom.” You won’t find him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You probably won’t catch him in a photo shoot, on a red carpet or at an awards ceremony, even if he is the guest of honor. Check that—especially if he is the guest of honor. “He loves the game,” Popovich continues. “He ignores the rest of it.”
This season has been full of accolades for Leonard and his teammates. Just days ago, he set a career high of 33 points against the Toronto Raptors to help San Antonio remain perfect at home, 39-0. That win also marked another franchise record, their 64th win of the season.
Mar 19, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) hooks a pass over San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Leonard is all about basketball and getting better not only for himself, but the team. He tells Sports Illustrated that he looks at film not only to study players but a teams scheme so he can jump plays when they develop.
“I look at film,” he explains, “but more than watching individual players, I’m trying to watch a team’s whole offensive scheme. I’m trying to know their tendencies so I can … guess. That’s what it comes down to, really, making the best guess. I’m trying to change up their scheme.”
He is a basketball junky. Dating back to when he was at San Diego State. He does not take any plays off. He gives it 110-percent each go. When he is taken out of games, he feels that he is doing something wrong.
“When Kawhi makes a mistake, he’s almost apologetic,” Popovich says. “He doesn’t want to disappoint anybody.
He is only 24-years old. He has a lot more responsibility on his plate that many his age in the league. Popovich and the rest of the franchise see Leonard is special.
Leonard this season is averaging 21.1 points per game and shooting 50-percent from the floor. He has been consistent all-year. Leonard silently is making himself known all-around the league. His defense has been a staple to his play this year and now offensively, he has taken that to another level as well.
The best two-way player in the league. You really can’t argue with that.