San Antonio Spurs basketball is officially back as training camps kicked off on Tuesday. The Spurs just had their first practice, and Kawhi Leonard said he already feels Tim Duncan’s absence.
San Antonio is heading into a season where they will be without one of their main players for the past 19 years in Tim Duncan. Duncan’s retirement may or may not have come as a shock to many, but it is already starting to hit close to home for some players, including Leonard.
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“Just knowing that he’s not here, his personality isn’t here, jokes that he makes during practice, those are the things I’m missing right now,” Leonard said Tuesday.
Over the course of his career, Duncan was a great leader, teacher and someone that can ease the tension on the floor, as Leonard stated with his joke making during practices.
He is the type of player that any team would dream of wanting. He has never been the one to say it is about him. But, the team.
With the first day of camp in the books, it is not known what exactly the Spurs are going to miss from Duncan’s absence.
“We don’t know what we’re going to miss on the floor,” he said.
The hole that Duncan leaves obviously extends beyond the 8.6 points and 7.3 rebounds a game he averaged last season.
As it has been built up from being named Finals Most Valuable Player, this season for the Spurs is now Leonard’s team. This is the time for him to step up and become the leader.
May 2, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard Dion Waiters (3) shoots the ball as San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) and small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) defend in game two of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Leonard is coming off of a season where he led the team on both the offensive and defensive ends. He reportedly spent the offseason trying to figure how how to lead them somewhere else — the locker room.
“Just becoming a leader,” he said. “Just making sure I know what’s going on on the floor in every position. Just being ready to really get my mentality at leading this group this year, that’s pretty much it.”
Leonard thinks that the Spurs have a championship roster. They added two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol to the roster. Leonard likes what he has seen in playing against Gasol over the years and stated that he is skilled and should fit right in.
He knows he and LaMarcus Aldridge must become the leaders of the team and they will need to keep the Spurs’ disciplined on both sides of the ball.
“If we win a championship, it’s going to be up to us to lead the group,” he said.
Leonard did have a chance over the summer to play in the Olympics for Team USA but he had no regrets about not participating as he welcomed his first child into the world and that is what kept him at bay.
Coming off of a season where he was named to his first All-Star game to winning his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award to once being named the Most Valuable Player in the Finals, this coming season could not be any more important for his career.
It is time for him to step up and take over the team that Duncan has left. This is Leonard’s time to shine in all areas.