Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard responded Sunday to current criticism by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich about his management, saying the feedback had been “funny to me” and insisting that he’s a frontrunner.
“I heard about it. It is simply funny to me as a result of, you recognize, I do not know if he is speaking about final 12 months or not, however I suppose whenever you cease enjoying they neglect the way you lead,” Leonard advised reporters in Toronto. “Apart from that, it does not matter. I am right here with the Raptors. My focus is on the season and never what is going on on the opposite facet.”
Earlier than Saturday’s sport on the Milwaukee Bucks, Popovich was requested in regards to the significance of level guard Patty Mills’ management within the wake of Manu Ginobili’s retirement and Leonard’s commerce to Toronto, and he offered a blunt evaluation of Leonard.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich mentioned Kawhi Leonard’s “expertise will at all times be missed,” however that Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills stuffed the management roles throughout Leonard’s time in San Antonio.
“Kawhi was an important participant, however he wasn’t a frontrunner or something,” Popovich advised reporters of the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time Defensive Participant of the Yr. “Manu and Patty had been the leaders. Kawhi’s expertise will at all times be missed, however that management wasn’t his deal at the moment. That will come as he progresses, however Manu and Patty stuffed that position final 12 months, and LaMarcus [Aldridge] got here a great distance in that regard additionally.”
Leonard mentioned Sunday that he’s a frontrunner however he shows it in several methods.
“I lead by instance coming into observe each day. Simply going arduous and coming into these video games mentally targeted,” he mentioned. “You may’t see issues when you’re enjoying on the ground. Guys ask me questions on their matchup or if I see one thing on the ground, I am telling guys, ‘Go right here, go there,’ simply motivating individuals, are you aware what I imply?
“I am simply making an attempt to carry individuals’s spirits up, that is about it. Do not strive to get anyone too down, simply carry them up.”
Despatched to Toronto this previous offseason together with Danny Inexperienced in trade for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round choose, Leonard performed in solely 9 video games final season for the Spurs as he handled a proper quadriceps damage.
Popovich defended Leonard over the summer season towards any insinuation that he was not a very good teammate.
“That’s all ridiculous,” Popovich mentioned on the time. “Kawhi was an important teammate the entire approach via. He did his work, and he was no downside for anyone. Speaking heads on the market have to have a narrative. If I used to be a speaking head — possibly I’m — I might have tales, too. All of the tales that denigrated him in that regard, that was unlucky and inaccurate.”
Leonard is anticipated to return to San Antonio on Jan. three, when the Raptors face the Spurs on the AT&T Middle.
Info from ESPN’s Michael C. Wright was used on this report.