Report: Spurs’ Popovich says Kawhi Leonard ‘wasn’t a leader’


San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. (Eric Gay/AP)

It appears San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is still not over the less-than-pleasant split between Kawhi Leonard and the organization.

Speaking with media ahead of the Spurs’ matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, Popovich was asked about veteran point guard Patty Mills taking on more of a leadership role in the absence of pillars such as Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Leonard, and wasn’t very complimentary of the two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

“Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn’t a leader,” Popovich said according to San Antonio Express-News‘ Jeff McDonald. “Manu and Patty were the leaders. Kawhi’s talent will always be missed, but leadership wasn’t his deal at the time. That may come as he progresses. Patty and Manu filled that role for us last year. LaMarcus [Aldridge] came a long way as a leader also.”

Leonard played only nine games as a member of the Spurs last season after struggling to recover from a right quadriceps injury that plagued him all season. As discord grew between the organization and Leonard’s team of advisors, it was reported on June 15 that the superstar no longer wanted to remain in San Antonio.

He was eventually traded to the Toronto Raptors along with Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick.

The 27-year-old has played in 14 of Toronto’s 20 games this season, averaging 24.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals. As part of easing him back into the rigours of the NBA’s 82-game season, the Raptors and Leonard have agreed to sit one half of back-to-backs thus far.

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