Tim Bontemps of ESPN recently wrote an in-depth piece on Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard, and while the entire piece is worth a read, several anecdotes stick out, particularly one involving Wizards veteran forward Trevor Ariza.
At some point between his freshman and sophomore seasons at San Diego State, Leonard received word that Ariza, already a six-year NBA veteran and NBA champion, would be working out on the Aztecs’ campus.
Leonard, always one to do whatever he can to be the best he can be, asked Ariza if he could take part in the veteran’s workouts. Ariza agreed, and was immediately impressed with Leonard’s talent and immeasurable work ethic.
“Man, my first impression of him was, this kid is here to work, period… No matter what… I prided myself on being there first person in all the time,” Ariza said. “And, when I got there, (Leonard) was already there. He’d done everything he needed to do, and he was ready to work out again… When I saw the work ethic he had, I knew he was going to be special.”
Leonard was even able to win some one-on-one drills against the NBA veteran as a 19-year-old college sophomore-to-be, Ariza admits, telling ESPN that “(Leonard) was an NBA player when he was a freshman in college.”
There’s more from Toronto this afternoon:
- After an up-and-down season in which big man Serge Ibaka became a bench player for the first time since the 2010/11 season, his second in the NBA, Ibaka’s superb play in Game 4 of the NBA Finals was instrumental in the Raptors taking a commanding 3-1 lead against Warriors, writes Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. Ibaka finished with 20 points, four rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
- The Raptors remarkable run to the cusp of the franchise’s first NBA championship has to resonate painfully with the Celtics, where Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens, and company envisioned making a similar run, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The biggest difference? Perhaps the gap between Leonard and Kyrie Irving is larger than we all realized.
- While Fred VanVleet concedes that there is an increased mental focus and sense of responsibility that comes from the birth of your child, he denies the correlation between the birth of his son, Fred Jr., and his improved play in these playoffs, write Michael Lee and Dan Robson of The Athletic. Rather, Fred Sr. credits his own hard work and unbreakable confidence for helping him transform his game this postseason.