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Popovich says Kawhi Leonard could be face of Spurs

Aug 31, 2012, 3:32 PM EDT

Gregg Popovich, Kawhi Leonard AP

Right now, Tim Duncan is deservedly the face of the Spurs. One of the greatest power forwards ever to play the game. And when you think of him you tend to think of the speedy Tony Parker and the crafty Manu Ginobili as well.

But in a few years it could be Kawhi Leonard. At least Gregg Popovich thinks so.

The best read on the Internet today is a Popovich Q&A at, which Matt already discussed here at PBT (Pops not a big fan of Stephen Jackson’s music, let’s say).

In there he also talked about Leonard heading into his sophomore season.

“I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.”

Being on a team with veterans like Duncan helps — those guys provide a road map and help young players through the learning curves of the NBA.

On a team that doesn’t give rookies a lot of run, Leonard got 24 minutes a game, earned his way into the starting lineup, gave them 7.9 points and 5.2 rebounds a game (numbers that went up in the playoffs) and with a PER of 16.1. All that with plenty of room to grow (like a midrange game) and while showing real defensive chops.

His second season is going to be interesting.

By the way, Popovich also had some love for Patty Mills, the backup guard who stood out for Australia in the London Olympics.

I didn’t need to see his Olympic performance to know what he can bring, it’s just that he came to us so late last year it was really hard to incorporate him into what we were doing. But he’s an aggressive, fiery, offensive player. He can shoot the three and really score, and that’s what he looks to do when he comes in the game. So he’ll be a game-changer in that sense, at the offensive end. And defensively he’s kind of like a pest—he’s not very big but he’s really a game. He’s got great courage and he gets into people, trying to really bother them and get them off their game. So his competitiveness and offensive skills are what we’re looking forward to mostly.

  1. eventhorizon04 - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    Not a Spurs fan, but Leonard showed tremendous growth in just 1 season – a lockout-shortened season, no less.

    The future is bright.

  2. sellahh - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    Never paid attention to Kawhi Leonard as i don’t watch many Spurs games but Pop doesn’t seem like a person who talks for the sake of talking. I suppose the man has real potential.
    And you bet coach Pop is saying this so Leonard can take the next step as fast as this year.

  3. cosanostra71 - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    I like both Leonard and Mills. I think they can be great players for the Spurs. Their scouting department is something else.

  4. anbesanegus - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Best coach in basketball and Leonard is a pretty good player but face of the future spurs??? Not so much

  5. money2long - Aug 31, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    so lemme get this straight. george hill was traded for a player who may become the face of a franchise?
    i say that’s a good deal for san antonio. that franchise is very smart with personnel moves.

  6. dysraw1 - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    Leonard is quite the steal runs like a deer can handle and shoot great tools

  7. dls612 - Aug 31, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    High complement coming from one of the best coaches! Thats great for the young man

  8. congocash - Aug 31, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    Leanard was recruited by Fisher at SAn diego state, who was the disgraced michigan coach of chris webber and the 5.

    • soupkan - Sep 1, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      O yes what a well coached team that was…lol nice timeout no championship

  9. diamondmo33 - Sep 1, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    Pacers were foolish to trade him for George hill.

    • metalhead65 - Sep 1, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      no they were not. they needed a point guard and hill is that man,they did not need another big guy who needs time to develop. this kid may indeed be the face of the spurs in the future but not now which is what the pacers needed and got with hill. besides is popovich going to say something bad about the guy they traded hill for?

      • money2long - Sep 1, 2012 at 11:06 PM

        i think both scenarios could have worked (keeping/trading Khawhi).

        had they kept leonard, they could have plugged him in at the small forward, had paul george at the two & hibbert at the 5. that is a good 3 man foundation. in this case they could have made danny granger, who is a very good player, a commodity on the trade market and seeking out a good point guard to go with a george/leonard/hibbert trio.

        or they could have kept things they way they are now.

        i dunno. but it sorta feels like granger now, will be the player he’ll be for his career. like, i dont see him going to another level. right now, granger is at peak trade potential. but i’m not saying he should be traded, because i like him.

        random, but it was funny watching him in that miami series try to bait lebron into an altercation seemingly every game.

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