Kawhi Leonard’s legacy is to damage dynasties


Earlier than the NBA playoffs started, I listed Kawhi Leonard as essentially the most attention-grabbing participant amongst these on the 16 rosters collaborating. Via one collection and one sport of the Raptors star’s postseason, Leonard has held up his finish of the cut price. He anchored a throttling of the Magic within the first spherical (after a short however traditional Toronto hiccup in Sport 1). Within the collection premiere in opposition to the star-laden Sixers on Saturday, Leonard had perhaps the most effective sport of his life. That is potential though we’re speaking concerning the 2014 Finals MVP.

What strikes me as most attention-grabbing about Leonard’s story is it actually lacks a narrative. There’s no narrative right here now that he’s spurned the Spurs and stays uncommitted to the Raptors. Leonard is adrift in a sea of his personal excellence, floating out and in of championship-level basketball with out obvious future or function at play.

We thought Leonard was wrapped in a story again when he received the 2014 Finals MVP: he could be the second coming of Tim Duncan. A tough-working, lead-by-example, elite defender who can drop 30 effectively too — somebody who’d take each snap from Gregg Popovich with out cracking, somebody dependable and egoless. That didn’t precisely pan out. Leonard’s physique proved unreliable ultimately, and his ego (or his uncle, relying on who you learn) proved paramount, as he principally sat out final season and requested for a commerce.

A lot for being the following Duncan.

The Spurs by no means get emotional and shipped Leonard to the Raptors. The deal frayed Toronto’s emotions, or not less than Kyle Lowry’s. Leonard healed the wound. The Raptors are nearly as good as ever, which is saying one thing given the place Toronto has been the final couple of years. But Leonard hasn’t a lot has hinted he’ll stick round, irrespective of how good the supporting forged or how dedicated Toronto is to offering no matter he wants, whether or not relaxation or energy or something.

However now the bud of blossoming narrative is poking by means of Ontario’s frost. It’s that Leonard is a disruptor of this NBA technology’s dynasties.

Excised from the narrative of the Spurs’ subsequent perfect-for-Pop quiet large, Leonard’s position in beating the Warmth in 2014 takes on this tone. It wasn’t a lot a continuation of San Antonio preeminence, however a monkey wrench named Kawhi thrown into Miami’s gears on the eve of three-peat.

After that title, the Warmth broke up and the Warriors rose to interchange them. By 2017, with Duncan retired and Leonard on his second contract, the Spurs had been poised to ask themselves to the standing tea celebration the Warriors and LeBron James’ Cavaliers had organized. San Antonio had received 67 video games and led Golden State by 20 within the first sport of their extremely anticipated West finals match-up. Then, Leonard landed on Zaza Pachulia’s foot and solely performed 9 complete video games for the Spurs till he was traded. We don’t know whether or not Leonard may have really disrupted the Warriors’ dynasty then, or whether or not that Sport 1 was a fluke. However it didn’t really feel like a fluke on the time.

Now we’re right here. There’s a good distance earlier than a Raptors vs. Warriors Finals — for each groups. Toronto could have its palms full with the Sixers earlier than all is alleged and accomplished, irrespective of how all-powerful Leonard appeared in Sport 1. The Bucks or Celtics would loom anyhow. Plus, the Warriors have their very own palms full with the Rockets, who simply may need been an premature damage from disrupting Golden State’s golden age this time final 12 months. There’s quite a bit at play.

However in case you’re trying to find a rhyme to place with Leonard’s purpose — in case you want a narrative to inform your self about what motivates Leonard as he performs with essentially the most intense cool we’ve on this league — this is likely to be it. Simply as he’s turned so many opponents’ possessions on their heads by sticking his hand within the play, he could possibly be wrecking one other franchise’s storied run by leaping in.

And heck, perhaps he’ll do this and nonetheless go away for Los Angeles (sporting Clippers black), or Los Angeles (sporting Lakers gold), or wherever this summer season. Such a chaotic sports activities league wants chaotic actors. Why shouldn’t one in every of them even be the most effective gamers?

It suits his fashion. Let’s see if it suits his narrative, too.


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