Originally written on Project Spurs  |  Last updated 11/18/14
Kawhi Leonard is entering his second season as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, but you wouldn't guess that with the way he's carried himself. Leonard has been part of a new trend within the team of allowing younger players to showcase their talents immediately over having them wait on the bench for a year. Leonard not only has impressed the fans so far in his young career but also has garnered the respect of head coach Gregg Popovich. After the San Antonio Spurs squeaked by the Utah Jazz on Friday night, coach Pop had some words about Kawhi's improvements. "Kawhi (Leonard) is a competitor. He's not afraid to shoot the ball,' said Popovich. "He knows he has a license to play. We went to him a couple of times down the stretch in regulation and he came through. He's a fine player." When the team traded fan favorite George Hill for Leonard two seasons ago, they were expecting something closer to what Bruce Bowen used to be. We've been seeing a mature process out of Leonard, something that the Spurs have lacked in a starting small forward in years. Leonard has steadily improved into a solid overall player with some Bowen-like defense and also developing a game that was expected out of Richard Jefferson during his tenure in silver and black.   Kawhi's been averaging 11.7ppg on 49% shooting this season and shooting 37% from the 3-point line. His shooting is what has helped the Spurs stay atop of the Western Conference this season, even when Tony Parker was out with injury for three weeks. His game is versatile where he can spot up and shoot or handle the ball in transition or at the top of the key.   Leonard also gave an insight on his mindset on the court after the game.   "If I'm open I'm going to shoot the ball. I'm not thinking about what type of pressure is on the line at the time," Leonard said. "I'm just trying to get the team the win by getting to open spots and shooting the ball."   This is something that we haven't seen from this position in years. Unlike other plaers in his position, Leonard is looking to get a clean look and take the shot without hesitation. He also has the mentality that he can help the team win and that's something a coach can't teach a player. This mindset is what makes Leonard valuable to this team this season and beyond. His lack of pressure for the moment is something that will come out huge in the playoffs, where the world will be watching him.   His composure makes him similar to Tim Duncan in that he's quiet and only seems to care about what he can do to help the team win. If that's the case, is it really surprising that he's earned Pop's respect so soon?  
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Chris Johnson: I’d be a good fit with Cowboys

Dansby on Manziel: 'He's grown up right before our eyes'

Gregg Popovich reportedly makes $11 million per year

Stephen Strasburg is hurt again

Mayweather has message for Pacquiao about injured shoulder

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Has Blake Griffin taken the next step?

Mike Evans liked Winston more than Mariota

Ernie Johnson gives his Emmy to Stuart Scott’s daughters

Titus Young avoids prison, receives probation

Manziel moves from downtown Cleveland to golf community

Ex sues Mayweather for $20M for lying in Couric interview

Which game statistically is most important in an NHL series?

Chip Kelly: 'I won't be here' if Eagles have to draft top QB

WATCH: Olympian uses javelin to pull out daughter's tooth

The brewing dispute over Alex Rodriguez’s bonuses

NCAA to hold record 42 bowl games next season

Mike Wallace: 'I'm the fastest player in the NFL'

Ty Lawson could be trade target for Celtics

WATCH: Zack Greinke does great bat flip after hitting double

WATCH: Fan uses beer as ice pack after being hit by ball

La'el Collins reportedly has 'airtight alibi' in murder case

WATCH: Stephen Curry nails shot from hallway prior to game

Top eight NFL free agents on the market

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Chip Kelly: 'I won't be here' if Eagles have to draft top QB

Brewing dispute over A-Rod’s bonuses

Top eight NFL free agents on the market

Eagles' Chip Kelly & Sam Bradford: In like, but not love

Manziel moves from downtown Cleveland

Making sense of the AL East pile-up

Chris Bosh on blood clot diagnosis: ‘I’m lucky to be alive’

Projecting the All-Star Game rosters

Tiger hasn't slept in three days since Lindsey Vonn breakup

2015 NBA Draft big board, first edition

Eliminate Hack-A-Player: Don't reward violating sports rules

No easy solution to the problem of early NFL draft entrants

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.