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Clippers' Kawhi Leonard Says Spurs Fans Booing Him Is 'Just Love'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2019

Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard pauses on the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in San Antonio. Los Angeles won 134-109. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Darren Abate/Associated Press

Fans in San Antonio haven't gotten over Kawhi Leonard's exit in July 2018, showering him with boos Saturday night.

For Leonard, the hatred serves as fuel.

"The boos is just love," Leonard told reporters after leading the Clippers to a 134-109 win. "Just taking it as that, I'm here for a reason, to win a ballgame. It only can make me better and make our team better with the crowd not being on our side."

Leonard finished with 26 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals in just 27 minutes, hearing boos every time he touched the ball until the Clippers' dominance eventually took the fight out of the crowd.

The Spurs traded Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in 2018 for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick after a falling out with their superstar over the handling of his injured quad. He was limited to nine games in the 2017-18 season despite being cleared several times by team doctors.

The Raptors went on to win their first title in franchise history, with Leonard putting together one of the best postseason runs in recent memory.

"It's a part of the game. It's the type of player I am, just the way I probably left and how it was portrayed," Leonard said. "I don't make no sense of it. I know it's a game and it's competitive. When we're not playing or if I'm walking on the street and I see somebody from San Antonio, they thank me for everything I did. They respect the way I played when I was here."

Leonard did his part during his seven seasons in San Antonio, making two All-Star teams and receiving two All-NBA first team selections while also winning the 2014 Finals MVP. He was the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

Most of the bitterness comes from the fact that Spurs fans viewed him as the guy to carry the torch from Tim Duncan. Duncan, along with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, were the rare stars who stayed in the small market for their entire careers (save one season for Parker) and created an expectation Leonard would do the same.

As we've learned over the last couple of seasons, Kawhi is built much differently—hence why a showering of boos might be interpreted as love.