Kawhi Leonard on being mentioned as a possible Finals MVP: ‘It doesn’t mean nothing to me’

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SAN ANTONIO — Kawhi Leonard has had two incredible performances in consecutive contests to help put his Spurs up three games to one on the defending champion Heat, and within one game of winning an NBA title.

Leonard may be the first name mentioned in the Finals MVP conversation, along with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and even Boris Diaw, because that’s just how balanced this San Antonio team is.

But given his reserved nature, he couldn’t even pretend to care about an individual achievement that is far from certain, and with so much at stake.

“It doesn’t mean nothing to me,” Leonard said at Saturday’s media availability at the Spurs practice facility. “Just try to go out and win the next game, and that’s all I’m doing.”

Leonard comes across as incredibly calm, focused and professional considering the way he’s proven capable of playing on the game’s biggest stage at such a young age. He speaks mostly in a monotone and at a predictable pace, but his emotionless responses to reporters’ questions aren’t given out of some kind of disdain for the process.

Instead, he just seems completely dialed in at accomplishing the task at hand.

On what the anticipation is like heading into Game 5, when the championship is within reach:

“It feels the same for me as any game going into it,” Leonard said. “All I’m thinking about is playing. I’m not worried about if we win or lose, and we just want to go out and play.”

On whether or not he allows himself to feel a sense of happiness or satisfactions privately after turning in performances like he has over the past two games:

“No,” he said. “I mean, because those are not my expectations. I’m trying to win a championship, and until we win, that’s when I’ll be satisfied.”

You get the idea.

The Spurs have a gem in Leonard, an amazing player with a seemingly limitless ceiling who fits perfectly into San Antonio’s team-first culture. And San Antonio’s long-tenured leader in Tim Duncan wouldn’t change a thing about him.

“That’s his nature,” Duncan said. “That’s how he is. You let your play, you let your game, you let your winning do your talking.

“I’ve never said anything to Kawhi about how he carries himself.  That’s how he chooses to carry himself.  He doesn’t talk to us, so I’m guessing he’s not going to go out there and talk to anybody else.”

Kawhi Leonard returns Tuesday on minutes restriction

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The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.

Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.

He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.

Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.

However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.

That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?

 

 

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Watch Kawhi Leonard chop boards ‘karate styyyle’ (video)

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Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.

He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.

But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.

Except we now know he apparently likes karate.

Leonard:

Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.

If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.

Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Kevin Durant brings fan to tears with autographed shoes (video)

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Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.

Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.