Such a simple word. Such a mundane word. Dare I say, a "boring" word? After witnessing Kawhi’s incredible Game 3 performance last night, I realized how powerful this word can be. Simply put, it embodies everything the Spurs stand for. Team basketball, no flash, no glitz: "just" basketball. Kawhi, of course, fits into this system perfectly, as has been said numerous times over his career. He’s got clichés of his own that the media uses to describe him: quiet, unassuming and, of course, boring. Perhaps his muted personality was best exemplified with his performance last night in Game 3.
As much as we Spurs fans dislike the Miami Heat, even the bitterest Spurs fan is forced to admit that Lebron James is the best player in the NBA and perhaps the world. But, that makes it all the more sweeter for Spurs Nation when we see our quiet, scrappy, 22-year-old forward shutting down the world’s best player. Kawhi did exactly that last night, all the while scoring 29 points (compared to the four-time MVP’s rather mortal 22 points.) He was a pest offensively and defensively for Miami, but not in a loud or flashy way (Cough cough, Lance Stephenson). Just always…there. (There’s that word again.)
But, for me, what I loved most about Kawhi was what he did after the game. Normally, a player (or at least a superstar) is ecstatic to discuss his career night, especially if it comes on the biggest stage against the biggest player. (Cue Russell Westbrook.) But, in true Kawhi fashion, he declined to come to the podium, instead taking a few routine questions in the locker room. Presumably, these questions were about his great game, his discussions with Pop about his performances in Games 1 and 2, etc. Leonard’s response to these questions? (Per ESPN’s J.A. Adande)
"I just was in attack mode…Trying to be aggressive early. Just knocking down a couple of shots got me going. My teammates found me. They did a good job of getting me involved."
Kawhi doesn’t sing his own praises. He doesn’t beat his chest after a spectacular dunk. (He’s got Pop to do that for him; someone get on that GIF asap!) No spotlight-grabbing, no histrionics, no theatrics, "just" basketball.
"Just" a career night for Kawhi Leonard. Nothing important to see here, folks.