Since their last NBA championship in 2007, the San Antonio Spurs had been slowly slipping down the Western Conference pecking order. Though they finished with the West's best record a year ago, the first-round dismissal by the Memphis Grizzlies sucked the wind out of any sails of recovery. No one expected San Antonio to compete for a championship this season, so when they traded a top-flight reserve guard (George Hill) for the No. 15 pick (Kawhi Leonard), many thought they were accepting their fate and working toward restocking the cabinets for the post-Duncan era.
Leonard is still meant to carry the Spurs of the future. But he also happens to be carrying the Spurs for stretches right now. Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News brings us a tale from the Spurs' front office enclave during San Antonio's Game 3 comeback win over the L.A. Clippers.
A few members of the Spurs' brass stood in a Staples Center hallway trying to find the proper superlative. And, fitting of Leonard, the best compliment was a non-verbal one.
A Spurs official put his hand in front of his face, then lowered it slowly, to show the universal sign for expressionless cool.
That was Leonard, the rookie, on the road, with the Spurs being crushed in the first half. "He might have been," the official said, "the steadiest on the floor."
Harvey then attacks the comparison of Leonard to Bruce Bowen, noting how much more physically gifted, athletic and skilled Kawhi is already. In short, the Spurs are old but awesome right now, and have a 20-year-old beast at small forward for the foreseeable future. There will be no rest in the West. None.