From Toronto to Los Angeles. Canada to the United States. The Toronto Raptors to the L.A. Clippers.
The Orange Roundball League’s Kawhi “Enormous Paws” Leonard logged 2,175 flight miles from Hollywood North to Tinseltown in the offseason. Why such a drastic move to a new country and city after winning an NBA title in Toronto a season ago?
Leonard, playing the small forward position at 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, has already hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 — winning Finals MVP honors as well. Kawhi duplicated this feat when he led the “We The North” Raptors as Finals MVP to the franchise’s first-ever NBA title in 2019.
Originally from Los Angeles, Mr. Leonard could help plant the same seed with the Clippers’ first-ever NBA championship inside the ‘bubble’ in Orlando, Florida. Virtual fans and audio recordings aside amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, a title is still a title.
In doing so, Kawhi would add his name alongside Robert Horry and John Salley as the only three players in history to covet championships with three different NBA teams.
Leonard possesses physical attributes unlike anything I’ve ever seen — ridiculous meat hooks for hands that measure 9 3/4 inches long and 11 1/4 inches wide. Goodness, gracious. The enormity of his paws is generally advantageous, but they can also present a challenge.
Talking with reporters in 2019, Kawhi said, “It’s just difficult. A lot of hard work. You know, sometimes, like, if you shoot a girl’s basketball, it’s smaller, it’s hard to shoot it, hard to roll off your hands. So, some games or some shots that I do shoot it, it’ll be too far in my hands, so I have to really focus on that.”
It seems as if Mr. Leonard has adjusted accordingly. Add a freakishly gargantuan 7-foot-3 wingspan, a chiseled body, and a basketball IQ that’s up there with the likes of LeBron James, and the Clips are immediate title contenders.
Let’s not forget that they have perennial All-Star Paul “PG-13” George at their disposal, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell back in uniform, and a roster that’s starting to get healthy just before the tip of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
Mr. Leonard, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2015, 2016), prides himself on playing defense-first basketball. Over the course of his Orange Roundball League career dating back to 2011, his offensive game just keeps evolving at the highest level.
On the offensive end of the floor for Kawhi, the entire court is his kingdom. Whether he’s pulling-up for a triple from the land of plenty, driving the orange straight to the tin, drilling a mid-range jumper, or even dishing the rock, Leonard’s comfort zone is virtually anywhere on the hardwood.
Averaging 27.1 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game, and 4.9 dimes per game during his 2019-20 campaign, the 29-year-old is simply remarkable. That’s correct. He recently turned 29 in June, and his game should just keep getting better into his thirties. That makes me think of just one word, my friends. Frightening.
With Kawhi Leonard and his “Enormous Paws” on their side, don’t be surprised to see the Los Angeles Clippers raise their first NBA championship banner to the rafters of Staples Center. It’ll look minuscule next to the L.A. Lakers’ 16 title banners inside of the arena, but Clips Nation will have plenty to celebrate.
Until next week, be smart, stay safe, and stay healthy.