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Spurs appreciate Kawhi Leonard’s quiet confidence

Jun 12, 2013, 7:21 PM EDT

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game Three Getty Images

SAN ANTONIO — Kawhi Leonard is in only his second NBA season, but he’s already an extremely important part of the Spurs and their championship aspirations.

Leonard’s defense on LeBron James has helped limit the league MVP to 18 points or less in each of the first three games of the Finals, and when he’s not been the one who’s stopped James personally, his positioning in forcing him into where the help defense is waiting has been tactically excellent on a very high percentage of those possessions.

But Leonard’s emergence hasn’t done anything to change his personality, which remains as quiet as his play is confident.

“Kawhi has never spoken to me,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said in his typically dry tone on Wednesday. “So I don’t really know what his level of confidence is, but watching him play, it seems he has no problem in that area. He just plays and goes home.”

The way Leonard carries himself has been a perfect fit for this Spurs team that consistently has downplayed stardom in favor of working for the collective greater good, and Popovich knows that it’s a special quality that not everyone possesses.

“Really, really rare,” Popovich said. “He just doesn’t seem to have doubts. He has aspects of the game that he wants to and does work on daily. But he never shows doubt. He just shows his willingness to go to work.”

Tim Duncan couldn’t think of an instance where he’s seen Leonard lose his composure or his confidence, but admitted it might be tough to tell if in fact that was ever the case.

“I don’t think he expresses enough emotion to know either way,” Duncan said. “He’s always the same. He’s always even keeled and he always looks like he’s right where he wants to be.”

Leonard doesn’t even want to absorb any credit yet for the job he’s done on James to this point, preferring instead to praise the team concept while emulating Duncan and Popovich by doing so with as few words as possible.

“I’m studying my team concepts and just buying into our game plan,” Leonard said. “That’s all I’m doing. Playing hard.”

He’s just another cog in the Spurs machine in his eyes, and that’s what makes him a perfect fit for a team full of selfless stars that finds itself halfway to a championship — not because of the heroics of Duncan and Tony Parker, but because of guys precisely like Leonard who do their job without much more than a whisper.

  1. pmx8411 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    Leonard and Green are doing a helluva job imo

  2. sunsation3413 - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    Guys like Leonard are exactly why the Spurs have won so many titles. They go about their business out of the spotlight and play as a team. They go get guys that will fit and just keep winning.

  3. ragingmouse - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    Great player who just loves the game!

    • gmsingh123 - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      The NBA needs more of these high energy, balls to the wall guys.

  4. funktron2x - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:08 PM

    We Spurs fans are just so incredibly lucky.

    • bougin89 - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:02 AM

      As a Bucks fan, yes, you guys are definitely lucky/great/whatever you want to call it.

  5. anhdazman - Jun 13, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    What he just did in game 3 to negate LeBron is pretty impressive. Now with that said, let’s see if LeBron bounces back or will further get frustrated.

    This Spurs team is pretty darn impressive defensively. They shut down my high powered GS Warriors and now they’re putting a clinic on how to beat the Heat.

    I do think the Heat will bounce back in game 4, but SA will win it all by game 6.

  6. bougin89 - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    “I don’t think he expresses enough emotion to know either way,” Duncan said. “He’s always the same. He’s always even keeled and he always looks like he’s right where he wants to be.”

    This is exactly what people used to say about Timmy when he was younger. Just so even keeled…It’s a great quality to have especially in a league that has way too many crybabies/complainers.

    • gmsingh123 - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      Did Tim Duncan ever get T’d up for running the entire length of the court after a foul was called on him?

      • Kurt Helin - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        No, only for laughing on the bench.

      • gmsingh123 - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        I don’t get it–are you saying those are comparable?

      • bougin89 - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:54 AM

        I’m not sure where you’re going with that question. My comment is saying Tim Duncan(as well as Leonard) would never act that stupid after a foul call.

      • gmsingh123 - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        That’s what I was saying too.

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