SportsIs everyone done sleeping on Kawhi Leonard yet?

22:10  06 may  2019
22:10  06 may  2019 Source:   nydailynews.com

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Is everyone done sleeping on Kawhi Leonard yet?© Chris Szagola

LeBron James held the title for so long, at least nine years, that it’s hard to remember a time when the throne sat empty. Following a very mortal season in Los Angeles, however, it’s worth re-examining the greatest basketball player on the planet.

These playoffs have provided compelling arguments for two players, in particular.

One is obvious: Kevin Durant. He has been part of the conversation for five years and continues to set a new standard for 7-footers. Finally, it seems, there’s proper acknowledgement of his defense. The other has taken longer for most fans to get used to as a contender: Kawhi Leonard.

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NBA playoffs 2019: Raptors' Nick Nurse praises Kawhi Leonard's 'big-time' performance Leonard started the Toronto Raptors' series against the Philadelphia 76ers with 45 point and 11 rebounds.

Leonard’s personality is drier than sandpaper, his motivations are a mystery, but watching him dismantle the Eastern Conference in the playoffs, it’s hard not to see the re-emergence of a two-way basketball megastar. In nine playoff games, he’s averaging 32.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists on 58.7% from the floor and 50% from 3. He’s a beast, and has done this while playing his trademark lockdown defense.

“The stuff that he can do to create his own shot is Kobe-like, for me,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said after Leonard torched his team for 39 points Sunday in a Game 4 Raptors win. “He’s just so gifted in relation to doing that.”

Leonard is three years younger than Durant and already owns an NBA Finals MVP. He’s not quite better than Durant, but it’s close. Yet the chatter surrounding Leonard’s impending free agency has been muted compared to Durant’s, and much of that is because – for eight years -- he has avoided talking about anything deeper than platitudes.

Kawhi Leonard’s body language after Game 3 loss sparks concern

Kawhi Leonard’s body language after Game 3 loss sparks concern The body language of Kawhi Leonard after the Toronto Raptors’ 116-95 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday sparked some fan reactions. Leonard’s Raptors were beaten thoroughly, trailing almost from beginning to end. It really got away in the fourth quarter as Philly cruised to a 21-point victory. The Sixers now lead the series, 2-1. When Leonard sat down for his post-game press conference, he looked exhausted and defeated. Kawhi's body language speaks volumes pic.twitter.

The belief is that Leonard will either re-sign with the Raptors or go home to L.A. with the Clippers, but ask him about it and don’t expect a follow-up.

“Just talk to people, just see what I want to do,” Leonard said about his free agency when I asked during the season.

And what does he hope to glean from those people?

“I’m not talking about that right now,” he said.

On some level, that should be commended. Leonard is avoiding a distraction for himself and the Raptors. Except behind the scenes, Leonard has shown he’s a bit of a diva.

Other stars, like Kyrie Irving, have only threatened the prima donna move that Leonard pulled off last season. Leonard, in case you forgot (and most outside of San Antonio either don’t remember or don’t care), sat out most of the season with the Spurs, left the team to reside elsewhere, collected his entire paycheck, and tried to force a trade to LA. Even Jimmy Butler showed for the Timberwolves this season. Still just 27 years old, Leonard missed 22 games with Toronto and most of them were due to “load management.” That sounds like he’s dealing with a dirty diaper.

So the humble, low-maintenance label doesn’t quite fit with Leonard. Certainly not in the same way it did with Tim Duncan or Hakeem Olajuwon. But he is on their level when it comes to impacting an NBA game and playoff series. Apologies to the overrated Steph Curry, the defensive-averse James Harden and the not-quite-ready Giannis Antetokounmpo – the two best players in this postseason are Durant and Leonard.

They’ll also be free agents in the summer, with increasing evidence that Leonard’s decision should garner as much attention as Durant’s.

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Conspiracy theorists think Kawhi's shot went in because of magnets.
Kawhi Leonard's Game 7 buzzer-beater against the Philadelphia 76ers left many in disbelief, but there are some conspiracy theorists who are convinced the now-iconic shot was rigged. Since the Toronto Raptors advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, several YouTube videos and Reddit comments have popped up suggesting magnets were the reason the shot went in. There are people on YouTube truthering the Kawhi shot saying it was a magnetic rim ???????????? pic.twitter.

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