Kawhi Leonard Speaks About His Relationship With Former Coach

Kawhi Leonard spent the beginning part of his career with the San Antonio Spurs. A franchise that has a knack for creating a winning culture and bringing in championships. They also have arguably the best coach in NBA history. In the post-game interview after the Spurs-Clippers game, Leonard spoke about his relationship with former coach, Gregg Popovich.

When Leonard entered the league, he was not the star player he is now. Rather, he was a student of the game under the great trio of Spurs players, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. He was assigned the role of being a defensive stopper and coming off the bench to create a spark while the starters were sitting. However, in just his third year in the league in 2013-2014, the Spurs would win the championship, and Leonard was named Finals MVP.

After the retirement of Duncan in 2016, Leonard would step up for the Spurs and take on more of an offensive role averaging 26 points per game. He would be considered the future of the Spurs franchise with Parker and Ginobili having only a few years left in the league. Unfortunately, the five-time all-star would get injured and only played nine games in the 2017-2018 season. Frustration started to grow when Leonard looked like he would be healthy to return but chose to sit out. He was subsequently traded to the Toronto Raptors in a shocking blockbuster trade. 

Leonard would go on to win a championship in his only year in Toronto and then signed with the Los Angeles Clippers the year after. There were speculations though that since he left the Spurs that the relationship between Leonard and Popovich wasn't all that great. On the contrary, the two-time Finals MVP spoke highly of his former coach.

When asked about what Popovich meant to Leonard, he said that "he meant a lot... still one of the best coaches I've had." The Klaw furthered this sentiment by adding that "we've been in too many battles to have a scar on our relationship."

Clearly, what fans and media might have speculated about the relationship between the two has been settled. Kawhi still has respect for his former coach that taught him about the winning culture that carried on to the other teams he's played for. Although he's not the player he was a few years back because of injuries, he still brings a positive impact on the Clippers franchise. 

On the other hand, the Spurs are not the franchise they used to be with star players and contending for championships. However, they still have the most winningest coach in NBA history on their sideline which helps cultivate a winning mentality.

The Spurs and Clippers will match up again on January 20th in San Antonio. It will be interesting to see how the fans react to Leonard returning to the arena this time around. 

Photo Credit Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports