Every year, it seems a good player steps up his game in a big way in the playoffs and becomes a household name. This year, that player is undoubtedly Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard followed up his 29 point Game 3 performance by posting 20 points and 14 rebounds in Game 4. Leonard’s clutch scoring, rebounding, and defensive work on LeBron throughout this series have many around the league wondering if it could be Leonard – not Duncan or Parker – who might hoist the MVP trophy if, or when, the Spurs close out this series.
Leonard’s burst onto the national scene shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. San Antonio fans may remember that two years ago, Gregg Popovich told all of us this was going to happen. Here are Pops seemingly prophetic words from an August 2012 interview with NBA.com:
“I think he’s going to be a star,” Popovich said. “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.”
In addition to his excellence in the less flashy aspects of the game, Leonard has also shown a knack for making highlight reel plays – dunks, specifically. Leonard first got our attention when he threw down a sweet pump-and-jam against the Blazers. Then he posterized Birdman with a baseline dunk in Game 3. But Leonard saved his best dunk yet for last night, when he elevated, snagged an offensive rebound, and slammed it in for a huge put-back dunk in one fluid motion.
Is this the future of the Spurs? Popovich thinks so: