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Celtics’ Stevens on Spurs’ Leonard: ‘A lot of people either undervalued or underestimated him’

The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Boston Celtics Wednesday 104-93 behind Tony Parker’s 19 points and on a night where six Spurs scored in double-figures. A recap can be found on Spurs.com as the Spurs moved to 10-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to eight games.USAToday.com

AT&T CENTER – Going into the half, the Spurs and Celtics were tied at 48 points apiece. Kawhi Leonard (16 points) would go on a scoring spree to post the following below in the next 12 minutes as the Spurs went into the fourth quarter leading 80-70.

12 points, 5-of-8 shooting, 2 steals.

“He can do that kind of thing,” said Leonard’s French teammate Boris Diaw after the game, of Leonard’s third quarter performance. “He is really talented and he proved that already last year. This year is no different.”

“Sometimes, when he gets it going, it is going to be very hard to stop.”

With the Celtics in town and having a young roster including a young coach in Brad Stevens, I was curious to know exactly how Leonard was perceived when he was still in college.

For Celtics guard Jordan Crawford, who played at Xavier during the 2009-10 season when Leonard was playing at San Diego State, Leonard was really only known for his defensive prowess.

“My rookie year in college I actually paid attention to him close. They started saying he was kind of like the next Ron Artest," Crawford said, drawing comparisons to Metta World Peace's defensive prowess.

“That’s what I was hearing,” continued Crawford, “then I seen him and every single year he gets better. He can really score, he can do a lot of things, and he did (tonight).”

Added Celtics guard Marshon Brooks, who was playing at Providence when Leonard was in college, “He was on the West coast. I heard some things about him, more so during the draft. He turned out pretty well.”

One of the biggest Leonard supporters ended up being Coach Stevens, who coached at Butler, a team that used to be one of the least recognized schools in college basketball.

“I always paid attention to them (San Diego State), because they were always kind of like us. Not from a huge conference and a lot of people either undervalued or underestimated him,” coach Stevens said of Leonard and his former college.

“It’s interesting because having coached guys like him, I get it. He’s got the physical ability, he has the basketball skill, and oh by the way, he hasn’t been told how great he is his whole life.”

At Butler, Stevens coached Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward who has become a key part of the Jazz franchise today, another unknown player who Stevens helped mold into a known name.

“And so he’s had a chip on his shoulder and he’s another perfect fit right here (in San Antonio) and those guys have really done a great job of finding guys like that,” continued Stevens on Leonard.

“Any basketball fan appreciates Kawhi Leonard.”

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX and the 2013 NBA Finals.

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