Popovich said of Leonard on Saturday, "Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn't a leader or anything". But before the game tipped off, Gregg Popovich made a decision to heap praise on one of the team's veterans: Patty Mills.
"That may come as he progresses, but Patty and Manu filled that role for us previous year, and LaMarcus (Aldridge) came a long way in that regard also", he added.
Leonard responded to Popovich's remark on Sunday, telling reporters, "I heard about it". Leonard played in just nine games and his status all season was unknown, even when he was cleared to play by team doctors. "I'm here with the Raptors, and I'm focused on this season and not what's going on on the other side".
"I think now he's just come out and given him a little jab". "But I want to focus on this team, this journey that we have in front of us today, and just stay in the present time and not look back".
This season in Toronto he is averaging 24.4 points and 8.4 rebounds a game, shooting efficiently with a 57.5 true shooting percentage, playing lock-down on-ball defense, and has led the Raptors to a 16-4 record to start the season.More news: Death toll from Uganda cruise boat accident jumps to 29
After last season's drama, it's hard to blame Popovich for his take on Leonard.
Popovich's thoughts on Leonard came after a follow-up question about the importance of Patty Mills to the Spurs.
"That is all ridiculous", Popovich said at the time.
Kawhi Leonard has had a positive impact on the Raptors in a short time, on and off the court. "He does it quietly, but they're leadership things to me". Leonard hated where he was at, and he refused to play another minute in the National Basketball Association as long as he was with the Spurs.
"Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn't a leader or anything".
The 27-year-old scored a team-high 29 points in that game and now averages 24.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals over 14 games. His Raptors are one of the dominant early teams out East, as they now hold the top spot with an impressive 17-4 record.