It’s been a surreal couple of days for Kawhi Leonard. He was named Finals MVP, his teammates paid tribute to him on the podium, and now all everybody wants to talk about is how he’s ready to become the next superstar in this league. Well, almost everyone. Yesterday, Leonard spoke about the increased expectations and his potential contract extension this summer with the Spurs.
In an interview with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Kawhi spoke about expectations for next season:
“Coming in, I wanted to be a great player, and right now at the beginning of my career, I’m showing some slight sunshine that I can be the player I want,” Leonard said. “I just have to move forward and keep working on my game and getting better.”
“The next step is learning how to carry a team and carry the full load scoring wise,” Leonard said. “I know people are going to put the main focus on stopping me so I need to learn how to make my teammates better by passing and creating opportunities for them.”
The Spurs can offer a contract extension to Kawhi this summer, but it’s not something that’s on his mind at the moment:
“I’m just playing,” Leonard said. “The Spurs are a great organization. I’m leaving that to my agent, and I’m sure they’ll come out with a great understanding and a deal. I’m not focused on that at all.”
Another storyline that’s been gaining traction the past few days has been the passing of Kawhi’s father Mark Leonard in 2008. It’s not something Kawhi wants to talk about publicly, but he did admit in an interview with Rick Reilly of ESPN last year it’s not on his mind:
“Man, I just try not to think about it,” says the 6-foot-7 Leonard, who was 16 when his dad was shot and killed. “It was in L.A. Murders happen out there and nobody ever finds out. It is what it is, I guess.”
“I guess my dad would be proud of me,” he admits. “But I gotta move forward.”
When next season starts, the Spurs will be among the favorites to win the title again. While we’ll still talk about Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, those who believe San Antonio can continue their championship run will point to Kawhi as the key reason for the team’s continued sustainability at the top of the league.
What do you think?
Follow steven lebron on Twitter at @steven_lebron.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.