Kawhi Leonard has a reputation for being the furthest thing from a vocal leader, but that could be changing in Toronto.
According to teammate Danny Green, the introverted superstar has shown a new side of himself at Raptors camp.
“He’s definitely more vocal than he’s ever been, on and off the court. It looks like he feels comfortable. It looks like he feels at home,” Green said after practice on Monday.
“He’s talking to guys, he’s leading by example. In the huddles, he’s chiming in, saying what he feels, saying his opinion. Before, he didn’t really show or tell much of his opinion… He’s leading vocally more than ever before.”
It’s hard to imagine Leonard doing anything other than fulfilling his mandate as a killer droid hellbent on NBA supremacy, but his improved human-like characteristics aren’t overly surprising given his new surroundings.
In San Antonio, Leonard was raised on a veteran team led by a similarly quiet leader in Tim Duncan, who had plenty of support in that department from Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and of course an excessively vocal head coach in Gregg Popovich. In Toronto, the 27-year-old is not only one of the more veteran players on the team, he’s also by far the most accomplished.
The Raptors need Leonard to help fill that leadership void left by DeMar DeRozan, and it appears that’s not lost on the 2014 NBA Finals MVP.
“There’s a lot of young guys that look up to him and respect him,” Green said. “You’ll have to ask him he probably has other feelings about it, but I would think his comfort level and him being one of the older vets here he kinda has to lead by example and vocally.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse had similar things to say about Leonard’s leadership after the Raptors opened their preseason schedule against Portland, so we’re starting to see a trend here. That’s a welcome development for Raptors fans, who are hoping this season isn’t a one-and-done deal.
Whether he likes it or not, this is Leonard’s team now and he’s going to be a leader regardless of how much talking he does — and it looks he’s OK with that.
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