Gregg Popovich: Kawhi Leonard Can ‘Do What a Michael Jordan Did at Both Ends’

by November 05, 2015

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has been building up Kawhi Leonard, and prepping the star forward to take the reins of the franchise once Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili move on.

The Spurs gave Leonard a max deal over the summer, and the former NBA Finals MVP has his sights trained on becoming an All-Star and regular season MVP candidate.

Pop, whose relationship with Leonard regularly produces hilarious quotes, says the 24-year-old stud has what it takes to become the League’s most dominant two-way player.

Per the Express-News:

Q. Leonard has already been a monster at both ends so far this season. What is the next step in his evolution? […] Popovich: “At this point, he’s just trying to figure out what to do when people come after him. He’s getting double-teamed now. That’s a whole different basketball game. So he’s watching (Charles) Barkley tape and (Michael) Jordan tape and seeing what those guys did. Those guys were great baiters. They’d get in a situation where they knew where they wanted to go with the pass. Right now, he’s learning when do I try to score, when am I in a crowd, when am I not in crowd, when do I let it go? All those decisions. That’s the part of the game he’s working on. He already plays at both ends, which is pretty spectacular. There aren’t too many guys in the league who can excel at both ends. They’re good players, but they’re mostly offensive. They don’t do what he does.”


Q. Is there any room for improvement at all at the defensive end? […] Popovich: “I don’t know if you’d call it improvement, but his goal would be to sustain it. To not just become an offensive player and forget being a defender. That’s what we want him to do first off, more than anything, is defend and rebound. So far he keeps that as his priority. It kind of fuels his offense a little bit.”


Q. Do you worry about the energy he has to expend to do that at both ends of the court? […] Popovich: “It’s about how good a player do you want to be? He has the ability to do what a Michael Jordan did at both ends. I don’t mean he’s Michael Jordan, but Michael played both ends of the floor. Kobe (Bryant) does the same thing, when he so desires. You think about the best players in the league, they’re not two-way players. He wants to do that, and he stays after it every day. Chip Engelland and Chad Forcier do a great job developing him. He works hard at it. We’re working him in the pick and roll now, so I can give him the ball like I do Manu.”