Mar 17, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Spurs 106-99. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
I exchanged some Q's and A's with J.R. Wilco of Pounding The Rock, SBNation's San Antonio Spurs blog. I know that the Spurs are aging like a fine wine but I also know that they have been given a shot in the arm from some younger guys. It didn't take much prompting to make Wilco gush.
This team would in no way be as successful as it is this year without the younger generation's contributions. After last season Gary Neal was a bit of a known quantity but there's no way anyone could have predicted the way that Danny Green has carved out a spot for himself in the rotation through his all-around play. He's led the team in scoring, he has rebounded far above what is expected from a shooting guard, and he's played defense far beyond what I expected of him from the small amount that we saw him with the Spurs last year.
And as much of a fan crush I have on Green, his contributions pale in comparison to those of our rookie, Kawhi Leonard. A physical specimen at 6 foot 7 with those crazy long arms of his, he was making his mark on the defensive end from his very first game of the season. But he plays small forward and everyone knows that the 3 in Pops system is going to have to be able to stand in the corner and shoot threes. And what was the biggest knock on Leonard coming out of college? His outside shot of course. So what is he averaging now in his first season in the NBA? Over .370, with splits for February and March at .474 and .432 respectively. He's learned the Spurs system so quickly that he not only occasionally plays the four, but he gave the front office enough confidence to trade Richard Jefferson and slide Leonard into the starting lineup. And he'll be starting to do crazy things like grab a rebound in trouble all the way down the court himself to finish the OMFB (one man fast break) on his own, which was previously only the domain of Tony Parker.