Friday, August 31st, 2012 at 10:24 am  |  41 responses

Gregg Popovich: Kawhi Leonard Will Be ‘Face of the Spurs’

by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam

Gregg Popovich is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating coaches in the NBA. He’s a no-nonsense, blue-collar, do-your-job type of instructor, with a penchant for giving some of the most laconic and boring interviews you’ll ever see. Yet while he may a disciplinarian due to the demanding nature of his vocation, off-the-court, Pop is a simple, loving guy, who savors and appreciates the little things—such as fine wine, fishing and reading. And when he does open up to the media, well, that’s when he gives us an always-memorable glimpse into his unique, and sometimes amusing, thoughts and perceptions.

In a recent Q+A mailbag with Spurs fans, Popovich shed light on a number of topics. He spoke on his mindset heading into next year, some of his favorite musicians and where he most prefers to vacation. But the one tidbit that stood out most was Popovich’s praise for second-year player Kawhi Leonard, who, according to Pop, will not only be one of the best player on the Spurs, but one of the best players in the entire NBA and the future face of the organization. Pop says Leonard is talented, hard-working and coachable, and is barely scratching the surface in terms of what he can accomplish.

Here are some excerpts from the interview, via NBA.com:

Question: What kind of season do you see Kawhi Leonard having next season? Also, where do you see him in five years?

GP: I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.

Question: With all these teams trying to stack their rosters over the summer, Lakers and Heat come to mind, how do you prepare yourself and the team for this coming season?

GP: What other teams do is not in our control, so we’ll worry about, as I said, incorporating Kawhi into the program more since he wasn’t here very long. Boris, Patty Mills, look for improvement in Danny Green, work our big guys. Tiago and DeJuan Blair I think are going to have very good seasons for us. So we’ll concentrate on that and what we need to do as a group, and we’ll see how we stack up.

Question: What books are you reading in the offseason?

GP: I usually have a group of books that I read at the same time because I never sit long with one and I’ve got something to do and get back to it, but at this point I’m close to finishing a book about Stalin and another book about Putin. And then on the fiction side I’m trying to get through a book called Ulysses, but I’m not man enough for it.  Too difficult to understand, too many big words, concepts that are way over my head, but I’ve always told myself I have to tackle this. I do about every three years try to read it. I’ve never had success yet.

Question: Who was the most coachable player you have ever had on your roster?

GP: Over all my time? Wow. I would say that we’ve had a steady stream of players that have been very team-oriented. And usually when people are team-oriented they’re also very coachable, so it’s hard to pick. I’d say the guy I’ve been toughest on, and he’s come through it all, is Tony Parker. In that sense, he’s listened to me and believed in what I told him even when he was angry with me or at times didn’t understand what I was talking about. But he trusted me, and I’ll always appreciate that.

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  • http://twitter.com/niQknacks niQ

    That’s what I’ve been saying, Pop loves Kawhi’s work ethic and defense. They were grooming him to be the next Bruce Bowen, except maybe minus the dirty business. Haha. Regardless, he’ll likely be their small forward for a long time.

  • Mariano

    I love Kawhi, and I think he’ll definitely be an elite SF in a few years… But Pops always forgets that Kawhi played 2 years at SDSU, not one.

  • Hursty

    I remember Pop being absolutely brutal on Tony Parker at times, especially his first couple of years in the League. Just shredding into him during timeouts. He didn’t try and communicate with Parker in French either, so if Parker didn’t understand it in English, he had to learn, because Pop wouldn’t accommodate it. Reason for that was because Parker would have to communicate in English to his team-mates (obviously).

  • justin05

    Face of the franchise? If he puts in the work and reaches that level then good for him. If not then the spurs will be a sad to team to watch post-duncan, ginobili, parker era

  • Hursty

    Bruce Bowen with a far more versatile offensive arsenal.

  • Brion

    That dude is one of my favorite coaches.

  • Junior Taylor

    I love Kawhi’s game especially on the defensive end but I just don’t see him becoming the face of any franchise. I don’t think he will develop enough of an offensive game to become the go-to scorer on any team. His ceiling is something of a GWall-type player

  • spit hot fiyah

    best in between quarters interviews in league

  • valkyrie


  • http://twitter.com/ec_lkhaa Will Lee

    love it with Tony Parker. He really came through. Not easy for a young gun to understand the discipline. Especially he’s a celeb that married Eva and still held onto it. Much respect both men

  • R.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X20VuzVUP-A&feature=plcp Kawhi Leonard – The future is here

  • bigA

    Your arguing against Pops? Get real son!
    Thumbs up for researching Ulysses.

  • danpowers

    and less anti-social behaviour on defense

  • MagicMaz

    Too bad no one knows what he looks like

  • MRB

    Dude is reading James Joyce. Respect.

  • danpowers

    i dont think so. if pop commits to them long term like sloan did in utah, the will be competitive. with pop they only need one or max two years for a rebuilding process

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    So the Spurs are not going to compete in a few years? Or Kawhi will be the face but not actually the best player? One or the Other.

  • Redd

    Can’t knock it cause Kawhi seems like a good guy and hard worker.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ Nick Tha Quick

    So this means Charles Barkley will finally pronounce Mr. Leonard’s first name correctly?

  • robb

    Barkley never pronounces anything correctly

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Gilbert/100001749589586 Mike Gilbert

    I see him turning into like a Luol Deng kinda guy….hopefully for the Spurs he won’ be their best player because he looks like he will be a fantastic number 2 or 3 guy

  • Ismael

    wait, what?

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    You mean Ka-Hee Leonard?

  • danpowers

    clifford robinson, scottie pippen, john stockton, ben wallace, tayshaun prince, terry porter, joe johnson and some others had weaker/less efficient or equal rookie seasons like leonard. all pretty good players. so when a guy like pop predicts that he got what it takes to become a very good player to lead a franchise one day i dont see why this shouldnt happen.

  • TheUnspokenTruth

    Kawhi’s already the (gigantic) ‘hands’ of the franchise. But I agree with Pop, he’s got plenty of potential.

  • Flash

    Among all the nba coaches ryt now, I got G-Pop to ever pull something like this and make it.

  • hugo

    thats not true, parker could already speak english prior to getting drafted.

  • iceman

    yea i think i’ll side with a guy who stepped down from upper management won four chips and outside of the obvious talent aka Timmy Duncan , helped drafted the likes of parker and ginobli when all these other teams passed them up, I think he knows talent

  • Moose

    Wow, this comments section has changed a ton since I last came on here.

  • The Seed

    On NBA2K12, he is the best player on the Spurs and in game if you know how to play. He will be good, but he has to get good reliable jumpshot.

  • SeanMagicJuan

    None of those players you named were “franchise” players.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    Joe Johnson tier player written all over him, if that.

  • ZOGS


  • Ugh

    And admitting defeat.

  • Zabbah

    And a lot better on offense.

  • Germs

    Talk about pressure, when Pop picks you as the future face of the franchise. Very curious about the plan Pop has behind his comments.

  • danpowers

    do some research b4 you post

  • SeanMagicJuan

    Research? What player that you named was a “leading man”? Being a “pretty good player” is not a franchise player.

  • danpowers

    stockton was no franchise player? neither pippen? joe johnson wasnt the face of the hawks and go to guy of a team that made the playoffs multiple years? ben wallace wasnt together with billups n prince the face of the 2000s pistons? cliff robinson wasnt an all star and a 20ppg scorer together with drexler on a very successful blazers roster in the 90s? pop didnt say franchise player. he said “will be face of the spurs”. the guys who i posted were all stars and had key roles on playoff teams. the point was: why shouldnt leonard have what it takes to make an impact on the spurs like the other guys i posted.

  • GametimeWeezy

    Killed it in Summer League this year

  • Hursty

    I wasn’t saying Parker couldn’t speak English. I never said that. I just said that Pop ONLY spoke in English. Is your second language as good as your 1st by age 19? What about specific linguistics relating to a job? There are nuances you don’t understand as a teenager as a pro, imagine learning it as a second language. Touuugh.