There’s one phrase San Antonio Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard has said a few times after games this season, “I’m just trying to live in the moment.”
For Leonard, that moment continues as his team is on a 16-game winning streak, and has a 2-0 series lead on the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Semi Finals. Leonard recently finished fourth in the NBA’s Rookie of the Year voting, and his coach Gregg Popovich gave some reasons why Leonard’s been so special this season, especially for a rookie.
“He’s been a real dedicated player,” said Popovich of Leonard before the Spurs squared off with the Clippers on Tuesday, “a quick learner, he’s done a good enough job for me to trust him to be in the starting lineup, so I’m happy for him.”
Though Leonard was acquired in a trade for George Hill because of his defensive ability, Popovich says Leonard’s offense is what’s been one of his biggest improvements.
“His biggest improvement has really been offensively, his shooting. The time he spent with Chip Engelland and Chad Forcier has been great,” continued Popovich, “and that’s probably the area where he’s improved the most.”
Leonard was also selected to the U.S. Select Team this summer and Popovich said it would be a valuable experience for him.
“I think that’s fantastic for him to play against that caliber player since he missed the summer.”
If you thought Tim Duncan was one of the most emotionless NBA players out there, you have to see Leonard in person. He’s quiet, humble, and always focused. As Pop once said, “He just does his work and goes home.”