Season 51, Game 40
San Antonio 103, Phoenix 89
27-13, 3rd in the West
Welcome to the 2017-2018 NBA season, Kawhi Leonard.
Yes, this is a bit dramatic. But not that dramatic. And considering the mystery surrounding Kawhi’s absence and how long he has been absent (relative to, say, a 35-year old PG who ruptured his quad tendon a few months ago), one might successfully argue not dramatic at all.
Against the Phoenix Suns, in Game 40 of the season, Kawhi Leonard finally looked like Kawhi Leonard. Or at least a recognizable approximation.
He’s been showing flashes, for sure. But what really made it evident was the defensive energy and the physical dominance. He finally got a few trademark steal and dunks. His prowling defensive instincts finally seem to be coming back.
He also finally seems to be using his strength again, bullying defenders out of his way. Kawhi is not a super athlete, at least in terms of speed and quickness. He is a bully. He doesn’t beat you by just getting by you; he beats you by getting into you and, well, beating you. He beats you up until you have to relinquish the spot to him. Then he makes a smooth jumper in your face.
He’s not all the way back. His jumper still can look flat at times, usually product of not fully having your legs back. And his man-to-man defense isn’t swallowing up oposing players…yet. But he looks close enough to being back that we can now safely assume he will be back.
But even this development isn’t without begging a few unpleasant questions. This was Kawhi’s best game of the season. It was also the first game he has played without LaMarcus Aldridge. LaMarcus also seems to play better when Kawhi is not on the floor.
Can these two be on the floor at the same time and both be put to maximum use and effect?
I sure as hell hope so.
The Spurs play in Portland again on Sunday night.
Go Spurs Go.