Kawhi Leonard turns pettiness into real-world motivation.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst recently sat down to record an episode of Basketball-themed podcast The Hoop Collective, where he spoke about Kawhi Leonard's disposition towards opposing NBA players, Kevin Durant in particular. Listen here when you have a moment.
If you recall, KD actually referred to Kawhi Leonard as a "system player" after the current-Raptor won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP award as a San Antonio Spur. The "system" pejorative refers to better-than-average players whose play is elevated by elite coaching and structural elements. I think we can all say that KD was wrong, or possibly speaking out of his emotions. Kawhi has proven to us all, that he can carry a franchise other than the Pop-led San Antonio Spurs.
"I was talking to somebody about that, somebody who knows Kawhi. And I'm just going to give it the qualifier here that, who really knows Kawhi? I mean, very few, I mean very, very few people. Certainly I'm not saying that this is some sort of insight that is dazzling. But, from what I understand, when Kawhi heard that quote, that he was a system player, that it really, really pissed him off and that that's one of the things that you carry with him," Windhorst commented.
What Windhort infers in the above quote is that Kevin Durant's criticism in 2014 still fuels Kawhi Leonard to this day. And as we saw on November 29th, Kawhi Leonard stepped his performance levels up with Kevin Durant in the room. Although Kevin Durant hit a completely insane shot to push that contest into overtime, it was Kawhi Leonard's all-purpose performance that shone brightest, as the game ended in a 131-128 Raptors' win on home soil. If it comes down to it who you picking from the line-up: KD or the Claw?