AT&T CENTER – With 1:16 remaining in the second quarter as the San Antonio Spurs were leading the Memphis Grizzlies by 19 points, Spurs guard Manu Ginobili grabbed a rebound and threw a pass down the court to an open Kawhi Leonard for a one-handed slam dunk that brought the AT&T Center to its feet.
Asked after the game Wednesday how the dunk felt, Leonard said, “It felt like any other dunk, it wasn’t anything special.”
On paper that almost sounds like a sarcastic answer, however as Leonard has begun his third season with the Spurs, folks in the city of San Antonio know that Leonard really isn’t a player with many words, instead he allows his play in games to speak for himself.
On Twitter, people have joked that he’s almost like a robot made in the form of his head coach Gregg Popovich when it comes to answering questions only without the sarcasm.
Leonard’s answers have never been elaborate nor has he ever been the type of individual to gloat about himself. Instead, he’ll answer a question as honest as possible.
“It felt good to get the season started with a win,” said Leonard of the Spurs defeating the Grizzlies in the season opener. “(But) we still have a lot to work on.”
Again, another answer where he keeps his mentality at an even keel.
With Leonard starting his third season, Popovich has said Leonard will begin to have a larger role in the offense. With Tim Duncan, Ginobili, and Tony Parker all in their 30s, Leonard is the youngest of what seems to be the new ‘Big 4.’
“He just wants me to be aggressive,” said Leonard of what Popovich wants from him on offense this season.
The aggression was seen throughout the night as Leonard went into halftime with nine points. It would be in the fourth quarter however, when the Grizzlies trimmed a once 21-point lead down to five points that Leonard would play his best.
Early in the fourth, Leonard blocked a Jon Leuer layup and took the ball down the floor. He drew a double team in transition, got past them with a burst of speed and then fed Tiago Splitter for an open dunk.
Being asked to have a bigger impact on offense, Leonard said his mentality has to change in order to fulfill his new responsibilities.
“My mentality has to change,” said Leonard. “I’m just really looking to score for myself and trying to create (offense) for my teammates.”
In the fourth quarter, Leonard was key in putting five points together. With 2:19 remaining, and the Spurs starting to create some separation from Memphis with a 10-point lead, Leonard buried a 3-pointer to give San Antonio a 13-point lead that would eventually lead to them sealing the victory.
It’s just one game of a long season, but as Leonard continues to grow and become more of a staple in the offense, remember, Leonard’s most remarkable statements aren’t made in headlines, instead they come through his actions on the floor.
30 minutes, 5-of-9 shooting, 2-of-2 from three point range, seven rebounds, one assist, four turnovers, and 14 points.