Kawhi Leonard Responds to Gregg Popovich Saying He Wasn't a Leader with Spurs

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2018

Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard moves the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard fired back Sunday after former coach Gregg Popovich questioned his leadership abilities.

"It's just funny to me," Leonard said, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. "I don't know if he's talking about last year or not. I guess when you stop playing they forget how you lead. ... It doesn't matter. I'm here with the Raptors and I'm focused on the season and not what's going on on the other side."

Leonard played just nine games for the San Antonio Spurs last season but has played well since being traded to the Raptors in the offseason, leading the team to an NBA-best 17-4 record.

The 27-year-old twice finished in the top three of MVP voting with San Antonio, although Popovich still thought he was missing something.

"Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn't a leader," the Spurs coach said Saturday, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. "Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills] were the leaders. Kawhi's talent will always be missed, but leadership wasn't his deal at the time. That may come as he progresses. Patty and Manu filled that role for us last year. LaMarcus [Aldridge] came a long way as a leader also."

Leonard was surrounded by veteran players when he first entered the league, with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all well-established at the time. All three players are now gone from the Spurs, which are off to a 9-10 start.

The Raptors seem happy with Leonard, who is playing at a high level for the NBA title contenders.