Kawhi Leonard: “I don’t see myself going anywhere”
The San Antonio Spurs opted not to offer their 2013 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard a contract extension by the Oct. 31 deadline, but Gregg Popovich continues to make it publicly known that Leonard is the future of the franchise.
Leonard’s career-high 26 points in the Spurs 89-85 win against the Clippers on Monday night was completely indicative of what the 23-year-old means to this team, and how he’s still developing before our eyes. When asked about the extension after the game, here was Leonard’s response:
I was never upset about (the extension). I mean they explained to me what their deal is and why they didn’t do it yet. That’ll play out. I’m just here to play basketball and have fun and try to win another championship. If I think about that, then I’m not going to be the same player that I am and will be just out of it.
I can’t be impatient. It would show on the floor, and I won’t compete if I’m thinking about getting the ball. I’m just going out there to do my role, the same role — defense first and then see how the ball turns out on the offensive end.
By not signing an extension Leonard will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, but that seems to mean very little,
I don’t think I’m going anywhere. I mean they love me here. I like the organization, and if it was up to me, I want to finish out with one team like a lot of great players have done, to stay with one organization their whole career and just be loyal to that. You never know. We’ll see what happens next summer, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a Spurs jersey for my whole life.
Learning and experiencing first hand the perks of sticking with one (successful) franchise has been Leonard’s advantage over the years. Seeing the legacies left and sustained by Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker must have that affect on his mindset, especially now that he has become part of those legacies.
Popovich re-iterated his feelings about Kawhi after that game,
We ran more plays for him tonight than I ever have in his career. That’s the plan. We’ve got to start giving him the ball. You know, he’s the future. I don’t think Timmy (Duncan) and Manu (Ginobili) are going to play any more than maybe six or seven more years. So we’ve got to let somebody else do something.
(Leonard) has never said one thing to me or asked me one thing about ‘Pop, why don’t we … ?’ Or ‘Pop, why don’t you … ?’ or, ‘Pop, can I … ?’ He just is unbelievably coachable and does whatever we ask him to do. He’s a coach’s dream, very honestly.