Jun 12, 2013, 7:21 PM EDT
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.
Apr 28, 2015, 2:13 AM EDT
Without Mike Conley to check him Damian Lillard ran free.
Apr 28, 2015, 1:14 AM EDT
D-Will tied his career playoff high with this.
Apr 27, 2015, 11:23 PM EDT
Michael Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton combined for 43 points.
Apr 27, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT
Series is now tied at 2-2.
Apr 27, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT
Washington’s averaged defender distance to the Toronto shooter was 3.55 feet, the closest defense any team played in the first round of the playoffs.
Apr 27, 2015, 7:58 PM EDT
The doctor will decide if microfracture is needed while doing a scope.
Apr 27, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT
The Cavs will be without two starters for the first two games of next round.
Apr 27, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT
Davis was +35 when playing while Green sat, -55 while Green was on the court at the same time.
Apr 27, 2015, 6:22 PM EDT
He would have been key against the Bulls to help space the floor.
Apr 27, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT
Olynyk finds common ground with Clevelanders
Apr 27, 2015, 4:59 PM EDT
Stats show Boston defended LeBron well, he just hit the shots anyway.
Apr 27, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT
I say Smith should get at least three games.
Apr 27, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT
They need the swelling to go down to get a sense of his return,
Apr 27, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT
Preview socks for the Cavaliers, Heat, Spurs and Warriors
Apr 27, 2015, 2:29 PM EDT
Cavaliers gave him a chance to wait by sweeping Celtics
Apr 27, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT
Rockets lost closeout game to Dallas
Apr 27, 2015, 1:12 PM EDT
Wallace owed more than $10 million next season
Apr 27, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT
What does Walker’s cratered draft stock say about Billy Donovan?
Apr 27, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT
If that was their plan, they executed it well
Apr 27, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT
Isaiah Thomas played, um, creative defense
- Portland comes from 10 down in fourth quarter to win 99-92, stay alive in series 0
- Bucks stay alive behind big backcourt performance to force Game 6 vs. Bulls 10
- Incredible 35-point performance from Deron Williams leads Nets to overtime Game 4 win over Hawks 9
- PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: Wizard’s defense peaking at right time 2
- Report: Chandler Parsons to have knee surgery, could require microfracture surgery 6
- Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith gets two-game suspension for shot to Jae Crowder’s head 38
- PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: Draymond Green helped hold Anthony Davis in relative check 6
- Cavaliers’ Kevin Love out for entire conference semifinals (likely vs. Bulls) 15