It's not all that often that we get confirmation that Kawhi Leonard is able to smile and speak at audible levels, so if you haven't seen the video of his interview at the recent San Antonio Spurs basketball kids camp, go check it out. He fields questions about the health of his knee, his recovery from the Finals, and how he feels about playing for the U.S. men's team in the Olympics.
But most important was his response to a series of questions, toward the end of that seven minute video, about how he's looking forward to next year. He began with the standard Spurs-ian reply, "Becoming a better player, better than I was last year. Just trying to keep improving. I'm trying to be a great player one day." But when Mike Monroe asked him about wanting to have his name on the All-Star ballot this year, he said:
It's a goal of mine already. Just trying to be an NBA superstar, All-Star player.
And that, my fellow £ers, is the first time I've heard him admit that he has goals beyond the trite I'm just happy to do whatever the organization wants from me. How about it? Not only has Pop said that he'll actually be (gasp) calling plays for Kawhi this year, but the Spurs' young small forward is gunning to be a superstar!
I might need to take a minute or two to let that one sink in.
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Now, I should take the time to say, for any of you who read this story without watching the video (which is hosted on Spurs.com and therefore cannot be embedded for easy viewing here), that it's not as though Kawhi has morphed into some chest-thumping, me-first player. And it would be irresponsible of me to characterize this interview as one that's centered around his career aspirations. Far from it.
My point here is that the man allowed the smallest of cracks in his media-facing persona, and gave us a quick glimpse at one of his true goals: becoming one of the league's best players. There's a long way to go before that happens, and none of us can say whether he'll ever make it, but it sure is nice to know that the franchise, and the man himself, are recognizing that the potential we see is real.
I'll end with this last note. One long-time NBA coach came with his team to San Antonio this year and hung out after his interview time to talk off-the-record about a number of things. When Kawhi came up, he said that he expected Leonard to be the Spurs' best player in 2013-14. That's quite a stretch in my eyes, but the fact that it's even something that he'd say made an impact that I haven't forgotten.
We have the rest of the summer to wonder just what Kawhi is capable of. And as he revealed in the video, now is about the time when he'll be getting beyond simple weightlifting to work on shooting, dribbling, and expanding his overall game.
Best of luck to you Kawhi.