Kawhi Leonard: 'I want to make history this year'

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/la-clippers/" data-ylk="slk:Los Angeles Clippers">Los Angeles Clippers</a> Forward <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4896/" data-ylk="slk:Kawhi Leonard">Kawhi Leonard</a> (2), <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4725/" data-ylk="slk:Paul George">Paul George</a> (13) and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/3971/" data-ylk="slk:Lou Williams">Lou Williams</a> (23) pose for a photo during media day at the Los Angeles Clippers Training Center. (Getty Images)
Los Angeles Clippers Forward Kawhi Leonard (2), Paul George (13) and Lou Williams (23) pose for a photo during media day at the Los Angeles Clippers Training Center. (Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Clippers new superstar Kawhi Leonard has a rare opportunity to accomplish a feat that has never been done by a star player: guiding a third franchise to an NBA championship.

Robert Horry and John Salley are the only players in history to have been a part of three different championship teams, but they were in supporting roles. Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James is also in the hunt, being that he led the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship.

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The Clippers hosted media day on Sunday to introduce a roster superiorly bolstered from an offseason jackpot of securing Leonard and Paul George.

And while much of the day’s theme was on tempering expectations, Leonard explained in an interview with Yahoo Sports on how memorable it would be to bring the Larry O’Brien to his hometown and make history by leading the transfer of a title to three different teams.

“That would be a great accomplishment,” Leonard told Yahoo Sports. “That feat would be something to talk about once I’m done playing, and being able to do that in my hometown would be amazing. Growing up, [Staples Center] was one of the first NBA arenas I ever went to. So to do all of that here would be special. But we have work to do first.”

That work starts Monday with the opening day of training camp.

“We ain’t changing nothing,” said forward Montrezl Harrell regarding the team’s blue-collar approach that captivated fans last season.

Leonard will be in camp on a full-time basis as the lone star, while George — who will be held out of contact drills, telling ESPN his return to action is slated for “November-ish” — continues to rehab from two offseason shoulder surgeries.

Leonard is noted as the dynasty killer for his role in taking down the Heat and Golden State Warriors, and subsequently James and Kevin Durant departed those losing teams soon after.

He speaks in baritone pitch that doesn’t cover a lot of ground, but his growling appetite to win is deafening. Similar to the stance of the rival team in the city, Leonard made it clear to stress that the day-the-day process can’t be ignored en route to chasing a title.

Kawhi Leonard has already led two different teams to NBA titles, including the Raptors last season. (Getty)
Kawhi Leonard has already led two different teams to NBA titles, including the Raptors last season. (Getty)

“Like any other year, I want to win just as bad as I did with any other team, but it’s just more excitement behind this situation and it’s more of a story that people want to cover if I do win it this season,” Leonard told Yahoo Sports. “Every year I come in and I want to win, I want to make history this year, but it’s always have fun, play hard, play the season out and let the results be what they are. That’s all you can do.”

The Clippers understand that championship expectations terminates being able to fly under the radar. The attendance at media day still paled in comparison to the contingent the Lakers held last Friday, but the Los Angeles Rams hosting the Tampa Buccaneers at the same time on Sunday largely contributed to the Clippers’ turnout.

“It will be hard this year, of course,” Patrick Beverley said of the 2019-20 season. “We’re not the surprising Clippers as we were last year. People know exactly who we are. The target is on our backs. … Now it’s just time to get to work.”

And the Clippers still refuse to rouse up the the basketball world by declaring war on the Lakers.

“It’s not a head-to-head battle of L.A.,” George said. “We've got to come out, we’ve got to play and we have to do what we have to do the same way the 29 other teams have to do.”

Defensively is where they figure to cause havoc.

“It’s going to be scary with myself, Trez, Kawhi, [Pat Beverley], [Landry Shamet], Moe [Harkless]Rodney [McGruder],” George said. “I mean, we really got a chance to do something special on the defensive end and I think it’s going to be an energetic thing watching Pat get out there and picking somebody up 94 feet. That’s going to get me going and it’s going to get Kawhi going and it’s just going to become contagious on a nightly basis. I honestly think for the first time, people are going to be excited to watch the defensive side as opposed to watching the offensive teams. It’s going to be fun.”

The Clippers will now embark on a new chapter, one with endless potential and excitement galore. Sunday was the official beginning of their new NBA year, but Monday on the court is where it really starts.

That’s the platform Leonard is most comfortable at.

“It’s time for us to get to work,” Leonard told Yahoo Sports. “We’ll see what happens this season.”

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