Posted May 05, 2013 on AP on Fox
Kawhi Leonard is soft-spoken, selfless, takes direction well and shuns the spotlight. All of which makes him a perfect fit for the low-key San Antonio Spurs. Leonard enjoys the limelight as much as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich likes speaking to reporters - which is to say, not much - but his profile might be about to grow. While the spotlight is clearly fixed on sweet-shooting Stephen Curry as San Antonio hosts Golden State Monday night to open the second round, Leonard's emergence has given the Spurs their own rising star. ''He's tremendous,'' Warriors point guard Jarrett Jack said. ''I think in a year or two he's definitely going to be one of the top small forwards in this league, somebody who is going to be a potential All-Star candidate.'' Not that Leonard is at all interested in extra attention. ''Right now I'm just here to win games,'' he said. ''It doesn't matter what the nation thinks about my game. I have goals set for myself. I want to reach my own goals; I'm not trying to reach anyone's expectations for myself.'' Leonard's development in his second season was critical to San Antonio finishing second in the West and capturing the franchise's 19th division title. The Spurs traded George Hill to Indiana Pacers in 2011 so they could draft Leonard, and the San Diego State prospect has not disappointed. With injuries limiting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and, especially, Manu Ginobili this season, Leonard has arguably become 3A among the Spurs' Big 3. ''He's a heck of a basketball player,'' Golden State coach Mark Jackson said. ''They got a steal in the draft - a guy that knows how to play, that was ready to play and does everything the right way on the floor. His ability to defend, compete, understands his role, has the ability to be a guy that can wait for those guys to make plays but he also has the ability to be facilitate and be a playmaker. The future is extremely bright for him. You can see, at some point, the passing of the torch.'' Leonard averaged 11.9 points during the regular season while shooting 49 percent from the field. The 6-foot-7 forward was third on the team in scoring, the first time anyone other than the Big 3 has cracked the top three since Ginobili's rookie season in 2003. At least one of his baskets each game usually comes off a thunderous dunk after he launches from about the free-throw line. ''My teammates just trust me more, so I'm getting the ball a lot more,'' Leonard said. ''I'm creating shots for myself. ''Whenever you have teammates that have confidence in your game, it's always going to make your game better. That's what a team is; they are supposed to help you in your hard times and in your best times.'' Leonard has also become one of the Spurs' top defenders, regularly guarding opponents' primary scorers such as the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant. ''He's a big key in what we do,'' Parker said. ''He's improving and we need him to have a good series against (Golden State).'' The Spurs will need huge contributions from Leonard and all their perimeter players to offset the Warriors. The Warriors are averaging 107.2 points per game in the postseason, including a league high in points this postseason with a 131-117 win over Denver in Game 2. San Antonio held Los Angeles to 85.3 points in sweeping the first-round series, but the Lakers were without Bryant. The Spurs don't have that luxury against the Warriors. Curry is averaging 24.5 points in the postseason and a league high 9.3 assists. ''He's like a (Kevin) Durant, a very good shooter,'' Parker said. ''He's a great scorer. Right now he's on a roll. He's playing great basketball so it's going to be a good challenge.'' While much attention will be paid defensively to Curry, the Spurs know they cannot focus exclusively on him. Jack and Klay Thompson each shot 40 percent from 3-point range this season, with Thompson going 211 for 526. ''All three are the same,'' Ginobili said. ''Even Jarrett Jack that is not supposed to be one of the better shooters in the league, he shot 40 for the season. All three are very skilled shooting well and that's why they are in the second round.'' Golden State has not won in San Antonio since Feb. 14, 1997, Duncan's rookie season. ''I said it before, it's not our history,'' Jackson said. ''We haven't gotten it done for two years, but we are a team that's more than capable of going into somebody else's building and beating them. We feel confident and comfortable about that. That's not an easy task; but we're excited about going to San Antonio and facing them. We don't pay any attention to what history says. Because that body of work is not our body of work.''
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

Gregg Popovich compares Stephen Curry to Michael Jordan, Curry offers Funny Response

    Anytime Michael Jordan is brought up in a comparison with a current player, it should be taken as an extremely high compliment. So when San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was on the receiving end of a 35 point explosion by Curry, he held nothing back when asked his thoughts on Curry. “It was like playing against Michael Jordan,” said Popovich. Curry when told...
WITH THE DAGGER

Ginobili hits 2OT game-winner vs. Warriors

Manu Ginobili missed his previous 7 shots before drilling the game-winning three pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining in the second overtime of Game 1 vs. the Warriors. The Spurs rallied from 16 down in 4th quarter and forced 2 overtimes and took a 1-0 series lead with the 129-127 victory.

Manu Ginobili drains game winner in Game 1

How? How do you let Manu Ginobili get that wide open? How? The Golden State Warriors will be asking themselves that for the next day as they try to rebound in Game 2 after losing a heartbreaker to the San Antonio Spurs 129-127 in double overtime on Monday night. Sure, it took more than 57 minutes for Ginobili to hit his first 3-pointer of the night and he had missed his previous...

Screaming Spurs Fan Lady ruins game for viewers (Video)

If you were watching the fourth quarter and overtimes of the San Antonio Spurs-Golden State Warriors playoff game on Monday night, you undoubtedly heard “Screaming Spurs Fan Lady” yelling every time the Spurs did something good on the court. This woman’s shrieks were so persistent and so annoying, she stole the focus of the game away from the players on the floor. See, the...

San Antonio Spurs: Why The Spurs Will Easily Beat the Warriors

San Antonio Spurs: Why The Spurs Will Easily Beat the Warriors By Mike Elworth: Publisher and Owner of Hoopstuff… Most predicted that the Golden State Warriors would lose to the Nuggets in the first round, but they pulled off a big upset and now have to face the even more challenging San Antonio Spurs team. The Spurs, easily swept the Lakers, appear completely healthy and with...

Ginobili's 3 in 2nd OT lifts Spurs over Warriors

All it took was one shot from Manu Ginobili to undo Stephen Curry's monstrous performance. Ginobili hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1.2 seconds left in the second overtime Monday night to lift the San Antonio Spurs to a 129-127 win over the Golden State Warriors and Curry, who put up 44 points in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals. Ginobili's shot and...

Popovich: Diaw to start in Game 1 vs. Warriors; Splitter to possibly return in Game 2

AT&T Center – The second round of the Western Conference playoffs are upon the city of San Antonio as the San Antonio Spurs prepare to begin a new series against the Golden State Warriors. With a new series at hand, a familiar face on the Spurs will be making a return to the lineup as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said Boris Diaw, who had been recovering from a synovial...

Manu Ginobili Sinks the Three in Double OT to Give Spurs Win in Game One of Semifinal Series with Warriors

If you stayed up late Monday night you got to see some incredible basketball. San Antonio went on an 18-3 run at the end of regulation in order to force overtime. The Spurs and Golden State Warriors remained tied after one OT period. With time winding down and the team down by one, Manu Ginobili found himself wide open for a three-point shot. And with 1.2 seconds left he sunk...

5 things to watch: Spurs vs. Warriors Game 1

The San Antonio Spurs (4-0) will host the Golden State Warriors (4-2) at the AT&T Center in Game 1 of their Semifinal matchup. During the regular season, the two teams split their four meetings (2-2) with each winning on their home court.  The Spurs have had eight days off after dispatching the Lakers in four games of the opening round series. San Antonio will have Boris...

Stephen Curry wonders if Gregg Popovich was sauced after Michael Jordan comparison

A lot of observers have called Stephen Curry the MVP of the playoffs thus far. Gregg Popovich has taken it a step further. The Spurs coach evoked Michael Jordan’s name when attempting describe some of the things Curry has been doing on the basketball court, recalling the 35 points he torched the Spurs for in the final week of the regular season. From 48 Minutes of Hell: “I was...

Spurs vs. Warriors: A Quantitative and Qualitative Preview

One of the best aspects in watching sports is first seeing something develop with your eyes and then going back to a box score to see your analysis proven with real numbers. For example, when you watch a basketball game, you might say, “Player X shoots and misses a lot of jumpers.” From there, you get home, go to the box score and find that Player X attempted 10 jump shots...

Spurs-Warriors Game One: The Game Of Any Year

I really couldn't imagine that the NBA playoffs were going to get better in the second round. Warriors vs. Nuggets was up-tempo magic between two highly likable, flawed teams. Dubs-Spurs was going to be a simple slapdown of the young'uns; Golden State hadn't won in San Antonio for 29 games. They clearly weren't going to do that against a rested and experienced Spurs...

Spurs Roundtable: Thoughts & Predictions on Spurs-Warriors Series (Video)

The San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors will kick of their Semifinal playoff series tonight in San Antonio where the Warriors have not won in 16 years. On this episode of the News 4 San Antonio-Project Spurs, Spurs Roundtable, Project Spurs' Jeff Garcia and Pounding the Rock's Aaron Preine join forces to break down the series. We discuss if the Spurs can handle...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.