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Kawhi Leonard on being mentioned as a possible Finals MVP: ‘It doesn’t mean nothing to me’

Jun 14, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

2014 NBA Finals - Practice Day And Media Availability Getty Images

SAN ANTONIO – Kawhi Leonard has had two incredible performances in consecutive contests to help put his Spurs up three games to one on the defending champion Heat, and within one game of winning an NBA title.

Leonard may be the first name mentioned in the Finals MVP conversation, along with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and even Boris Diaw, because that’s just how balanced this San Antonio team is.

But given his reserved nature, he couldn’t even pretend to care about an individual achievement that is far from certain, and with so much at stake.

“It doesn’t mean nothing to me,” Leonard said at Saturday’s media availability at the Spurs practice facility. “Just try to go out and win the next game, and that’s all I’m doing.”

Leonard comes across as incredibly calm, focused and professional considering the way he’s proven capable of playing on the game’s biggest stage at such a young age. He speaks mostly in a monotone and at a predictable pace, but his emotionless responses to reporters’ questions aren’t given out of some kind of disdain for the process.

Instead, he just seems completely dialed in at accomplishing the task at hand.

On what the anticipation is like heading into Game 5, when the championship is within reach:

“It feels the same for me as any game going into it,” Leonard said. “All I’m thinking about is playing. I’m not worried about if we win or lose, and we just want to go out and play.”

On whether or not he allows himself to feel a sense of happiness or satisfactions privately after turning in performances like he has over the past two games:

“No,” he said. “I mean, because those are not my expectations. I’m trying to win a championship, and until we win, that’s when I’ll be satisfied.”

You get the idea.

The Spurs have a gem in Leonard, an amazing player with a seemingly limitless ceiling who fits perfectly into San Antonio’s team-first culture. And San Antonio’s long-tenured leader in Tim Duncan wouldn’t change a thing about him.

“That’s his nature,” Duncan said. “That’s how he is. You let your play, you let your game, you let your winning do your talking.

“I’ve never said anything to Kawhi about how he carries himself.  That’s how he chooses to carry himself.  He doesn’t talk to us, so I’m guessing he’s not going to go out there and talk to anybody else.”

  1. gameisours - Jun 14, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    Great kid!

    • redmond24 - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:37 PM

      I find that much humility unsettling.

      • redmond24 - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:13 PM

        I understand the down votes. I agree he’s a great kid and upvoted that comment.

        It is just weird to me to be nominated as the best player in a series. He is essentially at the top of his profession and is apathetic about it.

        If you are awarded Employee of the Year, don’t give a speech and say ‘This isn’t a big deal to me.’

        I hope he’s just saying that so he can stay focused in closing out.

      • tomshoe - Jun 15, 2014 at 6:44 AM

        Your post

        So stupid

  2. jzone954 - Jun 14, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Can’t believe Pacers trades this guy…

    • kb2408 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:08 PM

      I can, that’s why the Spurs are who they are and the Pacers are…the Pacers.

      • gameisours - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:12 PM

        Right here you sound like a guy who would have predicted, that Heat have had won against Pacers…

      • duhwighthoward - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:30 PM

        INTERESTING USE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

    • moppop - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:33 PM

      Pacers only drafted him because of a sign n trade for Hill. It was already a done deal before the pick; would have been no different if SA got the actual pick.

  3. eugenesaxe1 - Jun 14, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    It’ll mean something come contract time, but first things first.

  4. saint1997 - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:00 PM

    Excited for the future of the Spurs! With Kawhi there doing his thing and Tony still playing effectively for a couple of years, spurs only need one more star (Monroe) to fill the good then let Green and Splitter have bigger roles

    • therealhtj - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:31 PM

      Sounds like a nice team with a 2nd round ceiling.

  5. seattlesuperchronic - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    I believe him. I know anything can happen, but I’m interested to see how he reacts to winning a championship. A smile, maybe?

  6. antistratfordian - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    False modesty can be worse than arrogance.

    • money2long - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:41 PM

      Honestly , has kawhi given us any reason to be skeptical ?

      • antistratfordian - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:51 PM

        Yes. He’s a professional athlete. Cmon now.

        There’s really nothing at all wrong with being just a little bit more honest and saying it would be a nice honor, but it’s the furthest thing from his mind at the moment. Unmoderated modesty can give the opposite impression.

      • moppop - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:48 PM

        Professional athletes are more prone to be selfless due to having a team-focused mentality beaten into their heads in HS and college. Sure you have the few head cases (who tend to be superstars), but how else can you explain LeBron’s motivation for having quality players around him? Or professionals that signed with the Heat for less money?

      • mrhonorama - Jun 15, 2014 at 5:45 AM

        I think Kawhi is already fully aware of how quickly one can go from hero to zero. He wasn’t at his best in the first two games and was outstanding in the next two. In the end, it means nothing if he can’t continue to perform well in the next game (or games). If he has another comparable game and the Spurs close out tonight, he probably is the MVP. If he has a quieter game, we’ll see if Diaw, Parker or Duncan instead emerge. My vote right now would go to Diaw — he’s the X factor who changed the complexion of the series.

    • limonadamas - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      Not sure why you have it out for this kid, Anti… As a fan of the game who loves witnessing excellence, shouldn’t you at least appreciate how he’s been playing? Or are you just zigging because everyone’s zagging? =P

      • antistratfordian - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:11 PM

        He’s played 4 games and was terrible in 2 of them. What do you think we’re talking about here? A season’s worth of excellence? It hasn’t even been a month’s worth.

        I said Leonard was a good player – I said I would love him on my team as a coach – but I appear to be the only one being reasonable and realistic here by basically saying the same things I said about Paul George last year, i.e. I know everyone is excited, but they need to pump the brakes a little bit.

        As far as this story – no one is buying Leonard’s story about an MVP meaning nothing to him.

        So I’m just calling it like I see it. I have nothing against Leonard personally.

      • limonadamas - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:23 PM

        How about last season’s Finals then? I would say Kawhi was pretty great then too.

        I do agree that the hyperbole machine might be in full swing… but you come off as petty and dismissive here (not that you care.. haha).

        I for one do believe he really doesn’t care about a possible Finals MVP at this point. It’s called focus.

    • kb2408 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:13 PM

      I can guarantee you will never hear Kawhi utter those infamous words….”not 1, not 2, not 15.” What’s so funny about that whole clown show is had the Spurs not given the title away last year, the Heatles would still be stuck on “not 1.”

      • antistratfordian - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:15 PM

        No, but we’ve heard MJ and LBJ say that – and if I had to choose I would take both of them over Leonard, or anyone else on the Spurs, every single time.

      • kb2408 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:23 PM

        You can have LBJ…give me Timmy and we will kick your tail. And he will do it with humility.

      • limonadamas - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:26 PM

        @kb2408: I’m now waiting for the inevitable billtetley53 retort where he calls you a hypocrite because he’ll say you know nothing about humility. That guy is such a creep. You should get a restraining order. hahaha

      • sportsfan18 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:50 PM

        Amen kb2408

        Timmy would kick his tail and Kobe’s too.

        Timmy’s career is > than Kobe’s career…

      • blackman24 - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:05 PM

        @Sportsfan18
        Except for the fact that Kobe has owned Duncan and the Spurs to the tune of 4-2 and the last thrashing in 08.

      • ranfan12 - Jun 15, 2014 at 1:03 AM

        just wanted to say hello to my fellow letter-number brethren

    • urodaddy07 - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:11 PM

      I don’t think this is modesty. He’s just say this hypothetical situation that was put to him just doesn’t compute to him. He doesn’t think about it. I know it doesn’t seem normal but he doesn’t seem normal to me.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:58 PM

        He’s normal. He’s just introverted and shy. But he still thinks most of the same things that anyone else would think – but you’ll never hear about it.

        It is kind of arrogant to sit around and say that something like an MVP doesn’t register to you. That’s playing up humility a step too far, imo.

      • moppop - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:38 PM

        Anti writing about arrogance is some of the most ironic things I’ve read on this board. Good one, you smug bastard.

    • azarkhan - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      Anti, modesty, false or real, will never be your problem. You’re so arrogant you’ll never realize how ridiculous you sound to all of us.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:17 PM

        No, I do realize that. But I also know how simple most of you are, so of course I’m going to sound ridiculous to you.

  7. adoombray - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    I mean…. he said it doesn’t mean nothing, which is a double negative, so he said that it is important to him.

    jussayin

    • money2long - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:14 PM

      You know why he said. But Do you know what he means ?

      • money2long - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:14 PM

        You know what * he said.

  8. ProBasketballPundit - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    If the Spurs win Kawhi will deserve the series MVP award, but I’ve never seen such an even team effort in a Finals before. Detroit had a well balanced team when they won, but they still had Chauncey to take the big shots and Rasheed was playing like a star player. These Spurs have somehow turned their star players into cogs that fit seamlessly in the machine along with every player on the bench. Everybody is a threat and the Heat don’t have the energy or ability to guard them all. Impressive coaching.

    Actually… Popovich should win the Finals MVP.

    • money2long - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:42 PM

      I enjoyed reading this post.

    • bdachan12 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:05 PM

      Not sure how you can say that without game 5 being played. Duncan has put up 15.5 and 10.5. Parker is at 18.5 and 5. If Leonard puts up similar numbers to game 3 and 4 in game 5 then sure. But if he puts up game 1 or 2 numbers he won’t and shouldn’t get it.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Jun 15, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        The reason I’m willing to assume Kawhi wins the MVP is because of his defense. He has single handedly blown up dozens of Heat possessions. Although he didn’t score as well in the first two games his defense has been consistently great throughout. He’s San Antonio’s superstar on D.

    • kb2408 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:20 PM

      I have swung to Pops side as the GOAT of coaches. I always said he was number 2 to Phil. This Finals has swayed me to Pop. Phil is like Bill Russell, meaning…he has the more titles than anyone. But Pop is like Wilt or Kareem, meaning… In spite of less rings than Bill, they were still better.

      • sportsfan18 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:53 PM

        works for me…

        Just like it works for me that MJ is the GOAT with more titles than Kobe and he’s better than Kobe.

        He has more titles than Lebron and he’s better than Lebron.

        If Lebron goes 2 & 3 for 5 Finals, he’s going to need to play in 15 Finals to win 6 rings to equal MJ…

        And 6 & 9 in the Finals wouldn’t be too swift (except the playing in 15 Finals, but that won’t happen either).

      • ProBasketballPundit - Jun 15, 2014 at 11:46 AM

        I have to agree. While I loved watch Phil Jackson turn dysfunction into championships… I never got the sense that he was a brilliant strategist like I do with Popovich. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt the way about a coach like I do with Pop. He’s a virtuoso.

  9. monkeyhateclean - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    Therefore, it means something to him!

  10. kb2408 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:06 PM

    I recall “before” the Finals began a very wise fellow PREDICTED not only would the Spurs win in 5 or 6 games, Kawhi would win MVP. That very wise fellow was mocked, ridiculed and the object of scorn for days! I believe that very wise fellow’s name was….I’m drawing a blank, was it bk42? No, that’s not it. Was it kbk12? No, that’s not it either. It was….ME!!

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:54 PM

      A broken clock is correct twice each day too you know…

      A blind squirrel can find a nut every now and then too…

    • longtallsam - Jun 15, 2014 at 8:59 AM

      Modesty…a great quality, but so rare these days!

  11. ro20sa - Jun 14, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    KAWHI seems like his attention is all in winning a championship. No reason to not believe that this kid is really doesn’t want anything to do with the spotlight. Not every player enjoys the limelight. He may just want to ball. Every article about this kid has been about how he’s a gym rat and how he’s developed even in the offseason on his own time. He’s a soft spoken player and fits perfect with this team. Spurs definitely got the better deal when we traded up for this kid!!!

  12. mbuda732 - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    He is just making his father proud up in Heaven. Couldn’t be happier for Kawhi Leonard.

    • showtime1911 - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:24 PM

      Good point. When u lose a parent a child or someone close you have a way of placing things in their proper perspective. This young man gets it. Refreshing for someone to not overly inflate the importance of a game unlike the ignorant thumbs down folks on this post.

    • thegoodfight12 - Jun 15, 2014 at 1:35 AM

      I just want to know who gave this post a thumbs down??

  13. chefjon81 - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:54 PM

    Tim Duncan has been by far the most valuable player in this series. He’s the catalyst for everything they do on both sides of the court, game in and game out. Bad grammar and busted cornrows aside, Leonard is a really good kid, and a great talent that’s becoming a great player, but he hasn’t been more valuable than Duncan in all of the Spurs wins this series.

  14. asimonetti88 - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    Kawhi Leonard is from SoCal! Riverside, but still!

  15. rn1997 - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    He’s definitely the future of this franchise……..the next Tim Duncan. He is EXACTLY what the organization wants in one of their players. It’s interesting that so many people seem skeptical of his humility & yet they would be complaining (worse) if he was boastful & arrogant. Personally I find it refreshing for an athlete to be more focused on their GAME, fundamentals & winning than having “personality” & being completely full of themselves. Maybe I’m biased as a long time Spurs fan, but I’m SOOOOOOOOO glad Kawhi is the future of our team; he continues with that humble spirit that drew me in as a fan of David Robinson & the Spurs of the 90′s. #GoSpursGo

  16. pistolpete0903 - Jun 15, 2014 at 3:23 AM

    This guy makes Duncan look like a Rodman…..I hardly see any emotion from this guy.

    Good 2-way players are at a premium in this league….the Spurs have found a gem. Still, not sold if he could be the centrepiece to build your team around (but knowing the Spurs, they could make it work).

    I think many people forget the fact that due to their sustained excellence, the Spurs never got a high draft pick (and if I recall properly they never traded picks for a higher one). A lot of credit goes to the GM (Diaw, Leonard) as well as the scouting team. More often than not, they have picked the right players.

  17. kavika6 - Jun 15, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    Picking an MVP for this series will be as tough as picking one after this year’s super bowl. Both win as a team.

  18. pistolpete0903 - Jun 15, 2014 at 5:02 AM

    Can anyone dig up something from his time in high school/college? This guy is pretty quite by Spurs standard (and that is saying something).
    Surely, the guy has to show some emotion; maybe some of his gym tapes can show something.

  19. Susie LaFredo, InterNetWorking Edge - Jun 15, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    He is just shy. Is all he can think about is getting away from the reporters and the cameras. He will get used it and I suspect become more like Duncan and just more words to not say anything. The Spurs just want to win, and they will regardless of what anyone thinks about who said what.

  20. narlo00 - Jun 15, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    Soooo it is important to him or it isn’t? The double negative is throwing me for a loop. Either way, he’s a pretty damn good ball player..

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