In a game that had no rhythm, little sense, and miniscule long-term meaning, perhaps the most indelible image of the season was born.
All Spurs fans love Kawhi Leonard. He is all promise and hope, a cornerstone of the future, and to date, he has delivered on every tantalizing possibility, brought along slowly in the long shadows of titans and legends. Not a lot is asked of him beyond his capabilities, and he stays within his lane, filling in every little crack the team asks of him. But a time will come when more is asked of him, when his stature must continue to grow, and he must embrace being a ‘star’.
Monday night we got to see the first signs of how a team led by Leonard could function and succeed. While that is more impressive in the aggregate, what happened tonight was more emotionally fulfilling, more anecdotally uplifting. While Kawhi has had plenty of highlight moments, mostly he is just rock steady, a silent pillar even more silent and more pillar than the original, Tim Duncan. So to see him sink a game-winner (a silky smooth game winner, off of a beautiful set play), the showiest of showy plays in the NBA, is awesome. I jumped, I screamed.
A 4-1 first leg of the Rodeo Road trip is impressive. But the bigger take away from this trip might be the sneaky ascension of Leonard from “solid” to “integral”. With Manu struggling with injury and consistency, perhaps Leonard is in place to become the #3 behind Tim and Tony, with Manu still available to provide all of the magic that he is capable of. But, as hard as this might be to admit for a long time Spurs fan, Leonard might be the more reliable and explosive player now.
Either way, I looked on like a proud older relative, as Leonard’s shot swished through the basket, giving the team a win and a wide vista into the future.
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