Toronto Raptors

Raptors' Kawhi Leonard responds to Gregg Popovich's comments on his leadership

Kawhi Leonard (@Raptors)

In the age of information, it doesn't take long for word to travel.

Such was the case Sunday night when Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard was asked about the comments his former head coach Gregg Popovich made regarding his leadership just one day prior.

"I heard about it," the two-time Defensive Player of the Year said following a 29-point, 10-rebound performance in his new team's win over the Heat Sunday night. "It's just funny to me. I don't know if he's talking about last year or not. I guess when you stop playing they forget how you lead... It doesn't matter. I'm here with the Raptors and I'm focused on the season and not what's going on on the other side."

Popovich, who coached Leonard for the first seven seasons of his career, was quoted saying "Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn't a leader or anything. Manu (Ginobili) and Patty (Mills) were the leaders" prior to the Spurs game with the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday night.

As Leonard hinted, Popovich could be referring to the 2017-18 season in which a quadriceps injury caused the 27-year-old to miss 73 regular season games and the entirety of the 2018 postseason. During this past offseason, Leonard's relations with the team failed to improve, and he was traded to Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan.

Ahead of the Raptors' 125-115 win over the Miami Heat Sunday night, Leonard's new head coach Nick Nurse was also asked about his star player's leadership, to which he responded "[Kawhi]'s very serious about his game. He puts in a lot of time on his game. He's surprisingly a good leader. I've seen some great leadership traits from him" (per TSN's Josh Lewenberg).

Leonard's leadership has paid dividends so far this season, as the Raptors have gotten out to a league-best 17-4 record through 21 games. In 15 games, the 2014 Finals MVP is averaging a team-high 24.7 points to go along with 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals per contest.

The Raptors' next game is Tuesday night, when they travel to Memphis to take on Mike Conley Jr. and the Grizzlies. Their first meeting with the Spurs comes when they travel to Texas on Jan. 3.

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