Right now, Tim Duncan is deservedly the face of the Spurs. One of the greatest power forwards ever to play the game. And when you think of him you tend to think of the speedy Tony Parker and the crafty Manu Ginobili as well.
But in a few years it could be Kawhi Leonard. At least Gregg Popovich thinks so.
The best read on the Internet today is a Popovich Q&A at Spurs.com, which Matt already discussed here at PBT (Pops not a big fan of Stephen Jackson’s music, let’s say).
In there he also talked about Leonard heading into his sophomore season.
“I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.”
Being on a team with veterans like Duncan helps — those guys provide a road map and help young players through the learning curves of the NBA.
On a team that doesn’t give rookies a lot of run, Leonard got 24 minutes a game, earned his way into the starting lineup, gave them 7.9 points and 5.2 rebounds a game (numbers that went up in the playoffs) and with a PER of 16.1. All that with plenty of room to grow (like a midrange game) and while showing real defensive chops.
His second season is going to be interesting.
By the way, Popovich also had some love for Patty Mills, the backup guard who stood out for Australia in the London Olympics.
I didn’t need to see his Olympic performance to know what he can bring, it’s just that he came to us so late last year it was really hard to incorporate him into what we were doing. But he’s an aggressive, fiery, offensive player. He can shoot the three and really score, and that’s what he looks to do when he comes in the game. So he’ll be a game-changer in that sense, at the offensive end. And defensively he’s kind of like a pest—he’s not very big but he’s really a game. He’s got great courage and he gets into people, trying to really bother them and get them off their game. So his competitiveness and offensive skills are what we’re looking forward to mostly.