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.
Sep 2, 2015, 12:05 AM EDT
Lin’s alter ego: Wayne
Sep 1, 2015, 11:07 PM EDT
Griffin will give Pistons 19 players, 17 with guaranteed salaries
Sep 1, 2015, 10:07 PM EDT
LeBron indicates 1999-00 Trail Blazers were great, implies something about his own career
Sep 1, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT
Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside look pretty good on paper
Sep 1, 2015, 8:01 PM EDT
Russians don’t even have Alexey Shved
Sep 1, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT
Luis Scola leads Argentina to victory over Canada
Sep 1, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT
He’s a 6’7″ combo guard with a lot of potential
Sep 1, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Well, that’s one.
Sep 1, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT
It’s not just baseball and boxing anymore.
Sep 1, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT
Miami is a long shot to land him, but you can bet Pat Riley will have them positioned for a run.
Sep 1, 2015, 2:19 PM EDT
Lots of pump fakes. Lots and lots of pump fakes.
Sep 1, 2015, 1:28 PM EDT
It’s an old Moses Malone trick.
Sep 1, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT
He’s healthy, that’s a start.
Sep 1, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT
Williams signed a two-year deal with the Mavs in July.
Sep 1, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Whittington played for the Heat at Summer League.
Sep 1, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Mutombo played four and a half years in Atlanta.
Sep 1, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Stojakovic had been rumored for several weeks to be joining the Kings.
Sep 1, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
His third time in seven years changing agents.
Sep 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Wade would make Patches O’Houlihan proud.
Sep 1, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
If I were a betting man, I’d expect there’s a better than 50/50 chance a Zeller deal gets done.
- Will Miami make a run at Kevin Durant? 14
- Report: Veteran forward Chuck Hayes agrees to deal with Clippers 6
- Report: Lakers to sign Brazilian, FC Barcelona point guard Marcelo Huertas to one-year deal 10
- Shaq to Kobe on podcast: “I just want people to know that I don’t hate you” 18
- D’Angelo Russell on Tracy McGrady tweet: “Some Lakers fans are spoiled” 27
- Anthony Davis “definitely” plans on shooting more threes this season 4
- Jim Buss defends Byron Scott as Lakers coach, “He has the Laker blood in him” 24
- Jim Buss open to the idea of Kobe Bryant playing beyond this season 32