A star has been born in the NBA, but not with the bravado of a Floyd Mayweather or the fanfare of a LeBron James; this young gifted athlete is none other than Kawhi Leonard. The 22 year old, 1st round choice from San Diego State University (selected by the Indiana Pacers and traded to San Antonio Spurs for George Hill) has made an immediate impact on the culture of the San Antonio Spurs, with his quiet demeanor and freaky, God-given athleticism.
His physical dimensions are something of an urban legend, standing at 6’7”, 230lbs, and has a wingspan of 7'3"(equal to none other than Andrew Bynum’s) with hands that measure 11.25" wide (matching that of Shaq’s), Kawhi has made his presence felt in the NBA with his suffocating defense and slashing offensive prowess. Two-way players were once a common theme in the golden era of basketball, but with a higher emphasis today on the marketability of offense and highly regulated rules on defense, the integrity of the game has seemingly been compromised.
This is one of the reasons why Kawhi Leonard is like a metaphorical breath of fresh air! Coach Greg Popovich has managed to bridge this gap, by stressing team oriented concepts on both ends of the court and Kawhi being the future center piece of this rationale. Drawing highly difficult assignments of covering the opposition’s best offensive weapons and still baring the intestinal fortitude to add a much needed scoring threat in the Spurs’ half court schematics.
In the 2014 playoffs, Kawhi has covered the likes of LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, and current league MVP, Kevin Durant; at first glance this in of itself is a daunting task but coupled with a playoff scoring average of 13.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals allows a sobering reality to his defined efforts.
In the NBA finals vs the 2x champions Miami Heat, #2 had struggled in the first two games offensively but in game three and he scored 29 points, 4 rebounds, and 20 points and 14 rebounds in game four to help San Antonio take a commanding 3 games to 1 lead. Having worked on his outside shooting skills throughout the offseason, from the 3 point line and in for the playoffs, ‘Quiet K’ has improved this facet of his game, to a tune of 38.2% from the regular season average of 37.9%.
Now on the verge of a championship opportunity, the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard stand to not only leave their name on the Larry O’Brien Trophy for 2014, but are well placed in Kawhi’s enormous hands for years to come.