"I guess when you stop playing they forget how you lead."
Kawhi Leonard finds it "funny" that Gregg Popovich doesn't think he was a good leader during his time with the San Antonio Spurs.
Popovich, who coached Leonard for seven seasons in San Antonio, was recently asked about the importance of point guard Patty Mills' leadership in the wake of Leonard's trade to Toronto and Manu Ginobili's retirement. In his response, Pop noted that Kawhi's talent will be missed but "leadership wasn't his deal."
"Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn't a leader or anything," Popovich told reporters, according to ESPN. "Manu and Patty were the leaders. Kawhi's talent will always be missed, but that leadership wasn't his deal at that time. That may come as he progresses, but Manu and Patty filled that role last year, and LaMarcus [Aldridge] came a long way in that regard also."
(Mills & Popovich: Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Leonard responded to Popovich's remark on Sunday, telling reporters, "I heard about it. It's just funny to me because, you know, I don't know if he's talking about last year or not, but I guess when you stop playing they forget how you lead. Other than that, it doesn't matter. I'm here with the Raptors. My focus is on the season and not what's going on the other side."
Leonard continued (H/T ESPN):
"I lead by example coming into practice every day. Just going hard and coming into these games mentally focused," he said. "You can't see things once you're playing on the floor. Guys ask me questions about their matchup or if I see something on the floor, I'm telling guys, 'Go here, go there,' just motivating people, do you know what I mean?
"I'm just trying to lift people's spirits up, that's about it. Don't try to get anybody too down, just lift them up."
The 27-year old forward is currently averaging 24.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.7 steals per game for the first place Toronto Raptors. Leonard will make his first trip to San Antonio as a member of the Raptors on January 3rd, in a game that will air on TNT at 8pm ET.