When Kawhi Leonard came back from injury, many San Antonio Spurs fans were excited and also worried if he would need a long time to adjust back into the thick of things. To their delight, the fan base can breathe a sigh of relief and re-new their hopes for a championship run.
Leonard got his shot back in the second game of his return against the Dallas Mavericks and, more importantly, seemed to improve on his defense and court awareness (7 steals in two games from his return).
This sight not only boosts hopes of a 2013 NBA championship but also gives fans flashbacks from their championship run, mainly from Bruce Bowen.
Bowen wasn't a player who'd get a bunch of steals or block shots like Kawhi can, but the mentality Bowen had on the court is the same one Leonard has right now: make the opponent take the toughest shot possible and don't think head coach Gregg Popovich doesn't see a lot of Bowen in Leonard.
After the San Antonio Spurs decisively defended their home court against the rival Dallas Mavericks, Pop spoke about the similarities of the two men and what he expects Leonard to be on this squad.
"Well we're trying to make him a defender, a top notch defender that can become 'All League' kind of defender like Bruce (Bowen) was," said Popovich.
"I think he's got the mentality for it, the intelligence for it. He just needs the experience."
With Leonard only in his second year in the league, this is quite the compliment.
In a league that's tilted itself to the side of offensive over having a balance, Leonard is impressing people over conditions that Bowen and the Spurs of old didn't face on a consistent basis. While Leonard plays a calm defense, his height, wingspan, and footwork makes it difficult for a player to get a shot over him and a tough time to back him down with his upper body strength.
If he can pick up some of Bowen's old tendencies on defense like a constant hand in the face to block the vision of the court along with the other hand on the ball to disrupt a passing lane while as close as possible to be a nuisance (especially now that the Spurs have great bigs who can help in the paint with Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw), Kawhi Leonard could earn himself a couple of defensive player of the year awards to his shelf.
I think kawhi is going to be the best perimeter defender this league has seen for years to come and hes already the best perimeter defender the spurs have seen, that includes, bruce bowen, sean elliott and alvin robertson.
Talking of contending for the crown next year, with the current lineup it is highly doubted if the Spurs can do it. Without upgrading in its frontcourt they could enter the qualifying post season, but will be eliminated in the first round. The Thunder and Clippers are expected to fight for the wcf.
@rtesoro440 Hey Troll go back in your cae, you are obviously not a Spurs fan.
@rtesoro440 Expected? There are no Guarantees in the NBA. The Spurs Lineup can compete for a Title it's all about staying healthy. The same for any other team in the NBA. The Clippers got swept last year did you expect that? No. The Thunder no longer have James Harden who was one of the key reasons why they beat the Spurs. Expected? The Western Conference is up for Grabs. The Spurs have a chance. 2 years in a row they have ended the regular season as Division Champs. Did you expect that? No. Did you expect them to go into the Playoffs and Sweep 2 Teams one Being the Clippers? Make it to the Western Conference? Be up 2 games against the Thunder with a chance to go to the NBA Finals? No. You Probably expected someone else right? Yeah I know. So as far as your First Round exit comment that's your opinion but don't be surprised if they exceed your comment's because they continue to prove people wrong. Writers doubt the Spurs every year and they still find a way to be in the mix of the action. Never Count them Out.
@TrueSpursFan @rtesoro440 I understand/agree with both y'all points and or concerns you can never count the Spurs out they have proven it over the years, and they are improving this year. But let's be honest they could use a veteran big to help the frontcourt out, don't get me wrong the bigs are playing beautiful basketball especially Tiago if they could add a guy like Jermaine O'Neal or Timofey Mozgov along with Tim/Tiago to bring that defensive physicality would definitely help. With Kawhi and Danny improving on both sides of the ball it could be lock down city.Spurs need to bring Bruce Bowen on the coaching staff to help those guys out defensively.
@TrueSpursFan @rtesoro440 The Spurs have won with players with less physicality, but also Tim Duncan was 10yrs younger and could shut down the paint by himself. After David Robinson retirement the Spurs haven't had a elite center ( Rasho, Francisco, Nazr, Fabrico) were just role players and played well in their system, playing next to Duncan the average big looks better than they are. When those four bigs left the Spurs they didn't/haven't performed well since then, so O'Neal / Mozgov couldn't do any worse than those guys.Your also right a trade would have to happen I don't think O'Neal or Mozgov have expensive contracts. Thanks for the basketball commentary appreciate it.
@ZILLA @TrueSpursFan @rtesoro440 I never said we couldn't use a another big. A legit center is what we need and have needed for years. Jermaine O'Neal and Timofey Mozgov? at what price? we would have to make a trade. I'd rather have Bonner and Blair over those two. Jermaine O'Neal to me plays more like a Power Forward and hasn't done much since his Pacer days. Timofey Mozgov I ain't seen him since Blake Griffins top 10 dunks. Don't get me wrong though I understand where you are coming from on some defensive presence. It can definitely help, but also remember the Spurs have won Championships without players with that type of defensive physicality before. My problem is not all defense but rebounds. Spurs struggle with getting rebounds. If they are able to get their rebound percentage up things will look a lot better for them. You can't go wrong with Bruce Bowen on the coaching staff helping those guys out. The thing is he's too busy bow-tying it up on ESPN. Maybe when he visits they can get some tips from him. But at least they got Pop and I'm sure he has and will continue to bring up Bruce Bowen's name to them when talking corner 3's and defense.