Popovich on Kawhi: Great player, but not a leader

Gregg Popovich said Kawhi Leonard was a great player, but not a leader while with the Spurs.

Gregg Popovich is never one to hide his feelings, pretty much about any and every subject.

So when reporters asked the San Antonio Spurs coach before Saturday night’s game at Milwaukee about the important of point guard Patty Mills’ leadership since Manu Ginobli retired and Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors, Popovich was, well, his usual self.

“Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn’t a leader or anything,” Popovich said of Leonard, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and 2014 NBA Finals MVP. “Manu and Patty 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.”

With Leonard, who played only nine games for the Spurs last season because of an injured right quadriceps injury, now in Toronto, Popovich refuted the idea Leonard was not a good teammate, however.

“That is all ridiculous,” Popovich said at the time. “Kawhi was a great teammate the whole way through. He did his work, and he was no problem for anybody. Talking heads out there have to have a story. If I was a talking head — maybe I am — I would have stories, too. All the stories that denigrated him in that regard, that was unfortunate and inaccurate.”

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