There is no denying that many Spurs fans will remain sore forever about how Kawhi Leonard left the team. But there is also no denying that Leonard has become a superb defender. But there is no way to look at where he is today without considering where he came from and the guidance he received along the way. Let’s take a look at some advice that Gregg Popovich gave Leonard about the level of excellence he needed to strive for.
What Gregg Popovich Said to Kawhi Leonard About Bruce Bowen
Sports Illustrated quotes Popovich as saying to Leonard, “You have to be the best defender in the league. You have to be Bruce Bowen times 10.” Leonard received that advice well, saying, “That’s how I grew up. Just play defense—and make a basket.”
The post gives some additional insights into Pop and Leonard’s relationship—how they learned to communicate, and how Pop addressed both Leonard’s mistakes and his successes.
So, how do Leonard and Bowen compare? If we take a look at the accomplishments of the two players, we can see that Leonard has in fact outpaced Bowen. Bowen has been selected 8 times to the All-Defensive team and has three NBA championships. Leonard has 7 selections to the All-Defensive team. But he also has two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVPs, On top of those achievements, he also has five All-Star appearances, two Defensive Player of the Year trophies, and an All-Star MVP. And that is just what Leonard has right now. He still has room for plenty more accomplishments in his career.
Spurs fans may feel that Leonard threw a wrench in what the team was building at the time that he left. But the front office did adapt, and the Spurs have continued to develop in his absence. With the 2022 draft, the Spurs have made additional decisions that will shape the development of the team in the season to come. That includes picking Malaki Branham, Blake Wesley, and Jeremy Sochan, as well as trading Kennedy Chandler draft rights.