Southwest Notes: Leonard, Gasol, Rockets

Kawhi Leonard will hit restricted free agency in the summer, but Gregg Popovich isn’t moving away from his plan to make the small forward the focal point for the Spurs, as he explains to Michael Lee of The Washington Post.

“We’re trying to loosen up a bit and give him more of a green light,” Popovich said. “He’s getting more license. When you’re a young kid, you’re going to defer to Timmy [Duncan] and Manu [Ginobili] and [Tony Parker]. Now it’s like, ‘To heck with those guys. The Big Three, they’re older than dirt. To [expletive] with them. You’re the Big One. You’ve got to go do your deal.’ So, we’re trying to get him to be more demonstrative in that regard.”

Popovich was speaking tongue in cheek about Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, but it’s not hard to see that he continues to view the 23-year-old Leonard as a building block. Here’s more on Leonard amid the latest from the Southwest Division:

  • Leonard was non-committal when Lee asked about his upcoming free agency, though it’s the Spurs who can ultimately decide if he returns, since they can match all offers. “I feel like they like me here and I’m going to come back, but we’ll see,” Leonard said, as Lee notes in the same piece. “We’re going to see this summer.”
  • Zach Randolph expressed confidence during an ESPN appearance Monday that Marc Gasol will re-sign with the Grizzlies, notes Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (Twitter links), but Randolph admits to USA Today’s Sam Amick that sometimes he worries that Gasol will leave. In any case, Randolph said to Amick that he talks to Gasol a bit about the summer ahead, presumably in an effort to get him to stay.
  • The summer front office upheaval in Memphis that nearly saw coach Dave Joerger leave for the Wolves job didn’t prompt worry for Gasol, Amick reports in the same piece. “I was in contact with everybody [during that time],” Gasol said. “I was in contact with [owner] Robert [Pera], and I was in contact with Coach, and they told me that everything was going to be fine, and I believed them. There was no reason for me not to believe them.”
  • The Rockets have recalled Clint Capela from the D-League, the team announced. This year’s 25th overall pick put up 9.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and an eye-popping 3.2 blocks in just 14.1 minutes per game across six contests for the D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

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