The San Antonio Spurs are in Brooklyn tonight taking on the Nets. The Spurs come into the game at 34-9 and sit in second place in the western conference. The Nets are 9-34 and looking towards the future with some young assets.
Before the game, Black Sports Online sat down with the reigning 2x defensive player of the year.
Jarod Hector: Kawhi, thanks for giving us a few minutes. What’s your focus right now as we are a few weeks from the all star break?
Kawhi Leonard: Obviously we want to get over the hump. This is where guys start to get tired [physically and mentally] a bit. We just want to raise our mentality and make sure that it gets through to the entire group. We want to make sure that we keep winning and go into the break well.
JH: For you, your workload has increased this year. It was high last year, but has gone up another level. You are the man on this team. How do you prepare for that mentally? How much more taxing is it from that standpoint?
KL: I mean, it’s something that I want. I prepare my mind all summer and in previous years when I wasn’t the focal point. I just wanted to get better as a player and have an increased role. I have a great group of guys with me on the floor, and they make my job easier. Tony, Pau, Manu. A lot of vets but also some youth.
JH: It’s a Spurs thing, you guys don’t care about individual accolades because the ultimate goal is the NBA championship. But I would love to know what you think. I know you hear the chatter out there. You are a legit MVP candidate and could win it this year. What would that mean to you?
KL: It’s great. It’s a stepping stone in your career and great for your legacy while in this league. It’s a gap in your life and it would be a great accomplishment in this game. I’ve been hearing it since last year. But, like you said, it’s not about me getting that award. I would trade it in for a Larry O’brien trophy [championship] at the end of the day.
JH: And another Finals MVP…
Kawhi is a humble star in this league and is a part of this “golden age” of small forwards that we are witnessing. In speaking with him you can sense he wants to be a great player. It’s the way he carries himself and the way he works at getting better. This is a player that didn’t shoot 3’s in college and now shoots at well over 40%.
Yes, Bron and KD are the gold standard at his position, but Kawhi has a ring, a finals MVP, and is getting better. Kawhi’s name will continue to be mentioned perennially among the league’s MVP candidates. If things break right and he wins one he will certainly be appreciative, but for Kawhi it’s just part of the process.
Our thanks to Kawhi Leonard for spending a few minutes with us today.