I always feel on edge when I'm watching a movie that features a silent or timid character. Those members of the cast are always the biggest wildcards. They wait in the background, not fully immersed in the main action and this makes the viewer feel uncomfortable. You're always waiting for this selective mute or shy person to erupt into a tirade or a witty banter. The movie seems to be building up to the part where Jimmy Chitwood saves Gene Hackman's job, or George McFly punches Biff, or the giant dude in Gone in 60 seconds reveals he's a British genius (kidding). The movie is left unresolved if there's a character who doesn't ever seem to maximize their potential and pop out of their shell. This is what makes me so frustrated with Michonne on The Walking Dead, she lurks in the background with the proles and fill ins of the show, but you know she has more, yet she never shows it. Sure, she stabs the Governor's eye out with a fish tank, but she never has that one moment and the audience is left feeling unsatisfied. A character like that doesn't belong in the background, they need their moment where they come into the fold as a true contributor.
The Spurs have been known for always having the supporting cast and always having the role players who do their part. The "next man up," theme is a common one for the Spurs. We have seen guys like Speedy Claxton, Malik Rose, Steve Kerr, Robert Horry, Brent Barry, Michael Finley, Fabricio Oberto, George Hill all operate like those second tier cast members in a movie. They'll occasionally offer a line of comic relief or save the day somehow, but they never really jump into the fold as a star. They're Shorty type characters from Temple of Doom or Joe Pesci's from Lethal Weapon. They support the stars and that is fine. Like on this current team we need the role playing Danny Greens and Gary Neals of the world to be Lando Calrissian's and drive the millennium falcon into the Death Stars, while the Big 3 fights Vader/The Emperor. That's great. But, to play off of the idea written about in last month's Grantland, in order to hang another banner in the AT&T center rafters, we need Kawhi Leonard to snap. He can't be a Fransisco Elson or even a Bruce Bowen, he has to immerse himself into the Big 3. Because they simply cannot do it anymore. Old Gene Hackman needed Jimmy Chitwood to stand up for him, and we need Kawhi Leonard to become a star. He isn't like any Spur we have ever had, and if he stays in the background like the other role players, we will be left so unsatisfied, because those dunks and those few games have shown us he is so much more than a filler.
Don't get me wrong, Leonard is literally my 5th favorite Spur ever (yes, already, behind D Rob and the big 3), but Leonard needs to be more than a next man up/latest Pop project for us to have a chance at hanging a banner or even taking this series back. Leonard has played great in the first two games, providing clutch shots, fast break energy and great Bowen-esque pestering D on Curry. Save a few missed free throws (and missed threes) and he's been almost perfect. But 18 points and 11 points (respectively in games 1 and 2) don't make him anything more than another Classic Spur who gives heft and form to the supporting cast. The reason we haven't won a Championship since 08 is we had some older Luke Skywalkers and a bunch of Admiral Ackbar's, and we need a Han Solo. Losing out on Luis Scola was big and we failed with Richard Jefferson as bad as Star Wars did with Jar Jar Binks. We need for Kawhi Leonard to show what's behind those timid eyes and erupt this weekend in Oakland. He has to go off, I want to see him post up people like Jarrett Jack or Curry anytime Thompson leaves for Parker. I want to see him demand the ball on the perimeter and make the longer defenders leave Parker and Manu alone. He needs to fearlessly run the court and have that moment, that game where he becomes one of the Stars, not stay a Nazr Mohammed.
The reason we hung two more banners in 2005 and 2007 was because Manu became more than just a "fun and crazy" foreign player in 2005. He wasn't just a classic Spur anymore who occasionally delivered Steve Kerr/Memorial Day Miracle type moments. He became a legend, a player who snapped and terrified defenses with his recklessness and speed. Do you remember his 48 point game in 2OT against Phoenix? When a gangly, long-haired, big-nosed faux-European became Manu Ginobil? We need a night or a weekend like that from Leonard. Because the Big Three can't rely on a team of "classic spurs" anymore. They'll have their moments, but they always have the feel of that Old Band who can rock your face off one last time. I keep waiting for the farewell tour. So, We need Kawhi to snap like the mute kid did in the Billy Bob Thornton's Friday Night Lights.
We need a star to be born and the Warriors left not knowing what to do. May their minds be blown with OUR young star who has all the potential in the world. We aren't asking you to be Steph Curry, Kawhi, just Han Solo. Knock that block off Biff's shoulder, George McFly, knock him out.