Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard drives to the basket against the Spurs Saturday in Los Angeles. (Allison Dinner / Associated Press)
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue and his San Antonio counterpart, the silver-haired Gregg Popovich, were sharing a postgame conversation Saturday evening on the Crypto.com Arena sideline when an intruder cut their chat short, sneaking between them to embrace Popovich in a hug.
It was Kawhi Leonard, the wing who arrived in San Antonio in 2011 as a defense-oriented project and developed into a Finals most valuable player with a silky jump shot before leaving in 2018 following a bitter divorce with the franchise after seven seasons.
Popovich smiled wide, whispered into Leonard’s ear and then squinted as Leonard pointed across the court, in the direction of his family. Before each returned to their respective locker rooms through separate tunnels after the Clippers’ 119-97 win, Popovich puts his hands on Leonard’s shoulders one last time and the two smiled again.
“He meant a lot, he’s the reason why I’m the player I am today,” Leonard later said of Popovich. “Built that foundation on showing me winning basketball and yeah, he’s a great coach. Still one of the best coaches I had.
“We been in too many battles to have a scar on our relationship.”
It was one of Leonard’s most in-depth comments on the state of his relationship with his former team and its leader since it appeared to deteriorate in 2018. The fallout led to scar tissue — but precisely how much remains a topic of intrigue within the league four years later.
Four seasons removed from the breakup between Leonard and the Spurs, Popovich said before tipoff Saturday that Leonard “is probably gonna be a Hall of Fame player.”
“He wasn’t a Hall of Fame player when he first got drafted, so I would say he’s improved quite a bit,” Popovich said. “He’s done a great job. He’s worked his ass off.”
After suffering a quadriceps injury that limited him to nine games in 2017-18, Leonard reportedly spent time away from the team to work with his own medical team and despite being eligible to sign a $219 million extension to…
Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/kawhi-leonard-says-theres-no-123014446.html?src=rss
Author : LA Times
Publish date : 2022-11-20 12:30:14
Copyright for syndicated content belongs to the linked Source.