Raptors' Leonard snipes back at Popovich
Speaking Sunday after his new team, the Toronto Raptors, defeated the visiting Miami Heat 125-115, Leonard said, "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 played just nine games last season with the Spurs as he dealt with a quadriceps injury. For much of the campaign, the team insisted Leonard was healthy enough to play, but he disagreed. The relationship deteriorated to the point where San Antonio traded him and swingman Danny Green to Toronto in mid-July, receiving guard DeMar DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick in 2019 in return.
Popovich said Saturday of Leonard, "Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn't a leader or anything. Manu (Ginobili) and Patty (Mills) 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."
Leonard, 27, responded Sunday, "I lead by example coming into practice every day. Just going hard and coming into these games mentally focused. 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.
"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."
Leonard lifted the Raptors on Sunday, scoring 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. For the season, he is averaging 24.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
The 2014 NBA Finals MVP spent seven seasons with the Spurs before he was dealt to the Raptors. Leonard has career averages of 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
--Field Level Media
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