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Old 07-14-12, 02:09 AM
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Great read on Leonard!




By Mike Monroe

LAS VEGAS — Unlike the amazing display of ball-handling by Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, there was no video on YouTube leaked out of USA Basketball select team scrimmages against the United States Olympic squad showcasing Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.

Irving’s full-speed spin move and crossover dribble of Kobe Bryant went viral, with hoops junkies worldwide viewing, over and over, mouths agape.

But a smaller, more important audience saw what Leonard could do against the star-laden Olympic team.

“You see Kawhi, but you don’t hear him,” Team USA assistant coach Nate McMillan and former Trail Blazers coach said after a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on the UNLV campus this week. “He’ll make the right play and he just moves on to the next play. Then, a few minutes later, he does it again.

“He’s opened a lot of eyes here this week.”

McMillan and the rest of the U.S. coaching staff discovered what the Spurs have known since the NBA lockout ended last December: Leonard is the Sphinx of the Spurs, a budding star willing to let his game talk without flashing even a hint of bravado.

Leonard’s approach to challenging Bryant, LeBron James and their London-bound friends has been typical of the NBA’s quiet man.

“I get to be around great players and just compete and get better,” he said. “I get to learn from the older guys. You don’t get this chance every year to compete with guys at such a talent level every day.”

Before he got to Las Vegas, identified as a potential future Olympian by USA Basketball, Leonard already had opened eyes in the Alamo City.

The Spurs had loved Leonard’s potential enough to send coach Gregg Popovich favorite George Hill to the Pacers to secure his draft rights a year ago. They never anticipated he would make 49.3 percent of his shots as a rookie, a figure that included shooting 37.6 percent from 3-point range. After all, he had made only 25 percent from the shorter line in college.

So when Leonard showed up for training camp in December with an NBA-ready jumper, the Spurs were amazed. On his own during the long lockout summer that bled into autumn, he diligently had applied a few pre-lockout lessons from Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland.

The improvement was dramatic, even though the team shot doctor was forbidden to prescribe offseason reinforcement. Engelland was mightily impressed, as was Popovich.

“All we did for him was change his release point, make it simpler and more repeatable,” Engelland said. “Then he went and worked his tail off during the lockout.”

By continuing his improvement, day to day and game to game, Leonard became a starter and a first-team All-Rookie selection. And when the playoffs arrived and both his production and efficiency increased, Popovich understood general manager R.C. Buford and his staff had discovered another potential gem.

“He wasn’t awed by anything,” Popovich said. “He reminded me of Timmy (Duncan) in a way, where he came into the league and did his job, didn’t say boo to anybody, but he listens to anybody. He takes it in and then you see it translate onto the court.

“Whatever it is, he reacted better in his first year than anybody I’ve ever seen other than Tim. Coming out of school in just two years, he was incredible.”

Leonard’s development this summer, beginning with the week spent matching up daily against the likes of James, Bryant, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, figures to produce an even bigger jump in his skill set and, more importantly, his belief that he belongs among the league’s elite.

“Whatever basketball he plays against NBA people is huge,” Popovich said. “(Team USA camp) is a motivating factor. Being there with Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski), the whole staff, the other players, just to feel like he belongs, so to speak, is huge for a guy like him. Then when he moves on to Summer League and things are focused on just him will be just as important. He’ll be a completely different player in some ways when he steps on court in November and we start playing games.

“We think the jump is going to be even more obvious than the surprise we saw his first season.”

Leonard headed back to San Antonio after the final practice session with the Olympians on Wednesday afternoon. He will be back in Sin City for Summer League when the Spurs play their first game on Sunday against the Hawks.

The emphasis in Summer League: Turning Leonard loose on the offensive end. He will be the Spurs’ go-to guy, running pick-and-roll plays by the dozens. Repetition is the key, and he will get plenty.

“You can drill it all day long, and we do,” Spurs assistant coach Chad Forcier said. “You can study it all day on film. But until you get out there and you’re going 100 miles an hour, that’s where the improvement is really going to come. We need to get some live reps on it.”

“I want to show the coaches I can make plays,” Leonard said. “Whether it’s dribbling the ball when I’m on the ball, just dribbling and coming off pick and rolls or in isolations, I want to show them that I can score the basketball and I don’t need help. I want to show them I don’t need to be just sitting in the corner, standing out there looking for somebody to play off me and give me a wide-open shot.”

Popovich can hardly contain his excitement for training camp.

“We’re wild with anticipation,” Popovich said. “We can’t wait to see what he’s going to be like next season.”

[email protected]
Twitter: @Monroe_SA


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Old 07-14-12, 07:00 AM
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Nice, we've got one of our next big three..
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Old 07-14-12, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by MichaelWi101 View Post
Nice, we've got one of our next big three..
I'm hoping that either Patty Mills, Gary Neal or Danny Green can become #2 of the next big 3. Lets hope Patty gets more playing time this season.
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Old 07-14-12, 07:45 AM
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Indeed, a very good read. To me, Kawhi is like a sponge – he absorbs and retains all the knowledge and teachings from his mentors (Engelland, Pop, Duncan, etc) and he applies it, getting better with each new experience. Then, when you expose him to the star-laden United States Olympic squad, it just presents new challenges for him to conquer. Reminds me of Admiral Yamamoto’s famous quote “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant…….”. And when people notice that Pop is excited and wild with anticipation, that translates into something very very good.
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Old 07-14-12, 09:50 AM
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Spurs better sign this kid to a long term deal before pulls a lebron or dwight howard.
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Old 07-14-12, 10:08 AM
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It's amazing to meet the difference in mentality between guys like Kawai Leonard and, say, Alexis ajinc Darko Millicic, Kwamé Brown, and so many other supertalented guys who have the physical tools to be stars in the league, but don't have the mental edge to make it happen. That is something that you cannot coach. Ironically, being coachable and being a learning type of person who just gets better by applying himself is something that you either have or you don't, like either being 7 feet tall or not, or being quick or not. So many times we think the raw physical aspects of the game are the only things that are either there or not there. But time and time again we see that the mental aspect is also something that you either have or you don't.
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Old 07-14-12, 10:19 AM
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And he goes about his business without seeming to exert any energy or emotion. Natural. The budding of someone very special.
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Old 07-14-12, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by alh1020 View Post
And he goes about his business without seeming to exert any energy or emotion. Natural. The budding of someone very special.
Very true.

My favorite play of the season was when we played on the road vs. OKC (regular season) and he faked a jumper, drove inside all the way to the rim and dunked on Serge Ibaka with extreme prejudice.

He gave no expression, fist pump, yell, or anything. Just turned and then ran back up the floor on defense like maybe he'd accidentally poked the ball out of bounds.
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Old 07-14-12, 11:56 AM
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Here it is:

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Old 07-14-12, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Guapo View Post
I'm hoping that either Patty Mills, Gary Neal or Danny Green can become #2 of the next big 3. Lets hope Patty gets more playing time this season.
This season Patty should get the playing time he needs and I think we'll know pretty quickly how he's going to be (although it seems like there was a great deal of discussion and disagreement over how good Tony was going to be, I'm one of those who questioned his long term viability )

Can't see Gary Neal being it, I doubt he'll finish up the season with the team, Green, for some reason, I just have my doubts, going to be interesting to watch De Colo play, apparently he's a very good passer and has a nice shot. Playing with Tony and Boris this summer should help him get ready for the season

Would love to see Tiago take that giant step, but not going to count on it.
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Old 07-16-12, 10:46 AM
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“He wasn’t awed by anything,” Popovich said. “He reminded me of Timmy (Duncan) in a way, where he came into the league and did his job, didn’t say boo to anybody, but he listens to anybody. He takes it in and then you see it translate onto the court.

“Whatever it is, he reacted better in his first year than anybody I’ve ever seen other than Tim. Coming out of school in just two years, he was incredible.”

if pop is telling only the truth here then im excited as hell!!! yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!



btw... im ok if decolo become a brent barry...
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Old 07-16-12, 11:58 AM
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“He wasn’t awed by anything,” Popovich said. “He reminded me of Timmy (Duncan) in a way, where he came into the league and did his job, didn’t say boo to anybody, but he listens to anybody. He takes it in and then you see it translate onto the court.

“Whatever it is, he reacted better in his first year than anybody I’ve ever seen other than Tim. Coming out of school in just two years, he was incredible.”

if pop is telling only the truth here then im excited as hell!!! yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!



btw... im ok if decolo become a brent barry...
Great analogy.

However, If De Colo Became Brent Barry, he should make sure Tony doesn't get his wife's phone number.
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Old 07-16-12, 04:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelWi101 View Post
Nice, we've got one of our next big three..
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guapo View Post
I'm hoping that either Patty Mills, Gary Neal or Danny Green can become #2 of the next big 3. Lets hope Patty gets more playing time this season.
If 2 of your next Big 3 is made up of Patty Mills, Danny Green or Gary Neal, you are definitely in rebuilding mode. That team is a top 5 lottery team. Like everyone, I was pleasantly surprised by Kwahi's production this year. I think Kwahi's game will always be complementary. Not a player you build around but a great complementary piece. Similar to what Gerald Wallace or Joe Johnson would be if Brooklyn gets Howard. If these guys are your 2nd and 3rd best player then you have a nice team, but if they are your 3rd and 4th best player, then you have a team capable of winning a championship.
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Old 07-16-12, 05:15 PM
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Great analogy.

However, If De Colo Became Brent Barry, he should make sure Tony doesn't get his wife's phone number.
Oh no you didn't.
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Old 07-17-12, 08:59 AM
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haha! barry ...on the court only!
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Im honored to be on this team right now because hes going to be great for years to come, and Im going to hold on as long as I can. -Tim Duncan on Kawhi Leonard.
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Old 07-17-12, 09:09 AM
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If 2 of your next Big 3 is made up of Patty Mills, Danny Green or Gary Neal, you are definitely in rebuilding mode. That team is a top 5 lottery team. Like everyone, I was pleasantly surprised by Kwahi's production this year. I think Kwahi's game will always be complementary. Not a player you build around but a great complementary piece. Similar to what Gerald Wallace or Joe Johnson would be if Brooklyn gets Howard. If these guys are your 2nd and 3rd best player then you have a nice team, but if they are your 3rd and 4th best player, then you have a team capable of winning a championship.
Very true. There are guys who can lead a bad team in scoring at 20 points per game, and guys who can lead a championship team at 20 points per game. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself and projecting where Leonard can go, but I still have a hard time seeing him as the best player on a championship team. Partly because the bar for that is set so high with guys like Durrant and James in the league now.
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Old 07-17-12, 01:58 PM
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TIMMY 2.0
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