After the San Antonio Spurs the Memphis Grizzlies from the playoffs with a 103-96 victory in Game 6 of their first-round series on Thursday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had high praise for his franchise player. In the course of explaining how San Antonio edged Memphis, Popovich directly called Kawhi Leonard the best in the business.
"We don't execute as well as Memphis did," Popovich said. "We have a knack for hanging in 'cause things happen, and obviously Kawhi Leonard is, in my opinion, the best player in the league right now. He's the best two-way player, and does it all with such class, it's impressive."
Leonard had 29 points on 8-for-19 shooting in the clincher, with nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. This completed a fantastic series for the MVP candidate, in which he averaged 31.2 points on 54.8 percent shooting against the Grizzlies.
When told of Popovich's comment, Memphis coach David Fizdale didn't endorse Leonard as the absolute best, but he didn't disagree, either.
"The thing that just makes him different is I just don't know many possessions that he takes off because he plays both ends of the floor so well," Fizdale said. "And his conditioning is like nothing I've ever seen. I mean, the guy, he just keeps coming and keeps coming and keeps coming and he finds a way to make a play, a winning play, whether it's a steal, a block, a rebound, a drive, pass. He made plays tonight off the dribble. You know, he makes a good argument. I would say that about my own guy, too."
Fizdale also called Leonard a "first-class" person, saying that he has taken his game up a notch every season. That has indeed been the case, and Leonard's dominant series against the Grizzlies is just another story to add to his burgeoning legend.