The San Antonio Spurs continue to celebrate their 2013-14 NBA championship with an intercontinental trophy tour that allows each member of the title-winning team to take the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy to their respective hometowns to celebrate with families, friends and fans. The O'Brien traveled to Bahia Blanca, Argentina with Manu Ginobili, to New Hampshire with Matt Bonner, all the way down under with Australians Patty Mills and Aron Baynes, to Long Island, N.Y., with Danny Green and back out of the U.S. to Brazil with big man Tiago Splitter. (Those frequent flier miles must be adding up for Mr. O'Brien.)
The trophy returned to the States last week to spend some quality time with small forward Kawhi Leonard, but when the reigning NBA Finals MVP made his visit to San Diego, where he played his college ball, he didn't exactly take Larry out to paint the town red. From Mark Zeigler of U-T San Diego:
[...] Leonard got “Larry” for three days in Southern California. He had it Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and he arranged for people to take pictures with it at his annual skills camp for youths last weekend in his hometown of Moreno Valley.
And Thursday and Friday?
It sat in the living room of the San Diego condominium he rents during the offseason while the Spurs staffer who chaperones the trophy around the world lounged at a UTC hotel pool … while Leonard was at his three-a-day workouts.
“I didn’t have any time to do anything with it,” Leonard explained. “My workout schedule is crazy.”
Translation: He’s not missing a mid-August workout for a season that begins in late October to show off a shiny 2-foot, 14.5-pound trophy with a 24-karat gold overlay.
“I’m just a low-key guy,” he said. “I’m just happy we won it. I don’t even care about the trophy. The title matters the most.”
Well, yes, of course it does. That commitment to winning above all else goes a long way toward explaining why Spurs coach Gregg Popovich views the 23-year-old forward with the monster mitts, the phenomenal defensive footwork and the willingness to go for the kill as something of a surprising kindred spirit and as a rising star who someday soon will "be the face of the Spurs." But even as committed and hard-driving a taskmaster as Pop knows how to cut loose every now and again; by all means, Kawhi, feel free to do the same.
To be fair, it's not like this is anything new for the "low-key guy" on whom the Spurs' perimeter defense hinges, according to Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News:
Reminiscent of last year's immortal exchange. Q: Did you do anything fun this summer? Kawhi Leonard: No, not really.
— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) August 18, 2014
Then again, maybe Leonard really is starting to turn a corner when it comes to letting the good times roll. D.J. Gay, Leonard's former teammate at San Diego State and an instructor at the Moreno Valley camp, said Kawhi did admit to having "a little fun" when he first came back to California, but then it was time to get back in the gym. More from Zeigler:
“That’s just who he is, you know ... The things that make him happy are the things that improve him as a player. It’s not the money, the fancy cars, that’s not what makes him happy. Being in the gym, working out, being able to compete every night against the best players in the world, that’s what makes Kawhi happy.”
So happy, in fact, that he even cracked a smile when showing off the fruits of his labors against LeBron James and the Miami Heat when hanging with his campers:
— NBA (@NBA) August 11, 2014
(There are many more photos with much less smiling, of course, because this is still Kawhi Leonard, after all.)
While Leonard might not have shown the O'Brien off at a host of Southern California hotspots during his trip home, the fact that he brought it to his camp, and to the local kids who attended, offers some insight to how the rising star forward views himself and his role, both inside the NBA and in the larger community.
“I mean, just for the kids to see me and see an NBA player in front of their faces is a great experience for them,” Leonard told Zeigler. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have a hometown hero.”
Well, the kids in Moreno Valley have one now. He's not the flashiest dude in the world (he'll take out the Porsche for game day, but he still drives his old Chevy Malibu everywhere else) and his creativity in coming up with a Halloween costume leaves something to be desired, but Kawhi Leonard's the kind of hometown hero who'll go out and grab the brass ring and bring it back to show you how you can do it, too. He just might not show it to everybody else.
Hat-tip to FTW.
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