Leonard recalls short time with Pacers

By Jeff McDonald

It doesn’t take Kawhi Leonard long to recount the entirety of his career as an Indiana Pacer.

NBA commissioner David Stern announced him as the 15th pick in the June draft. Someone handed Leonard a Pacers ball cap as he walked up on stage at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. He shook the commissioner’s hand. He walked off stage.

“And then a media person in the back told me I had been traded,” Leonard said.

Leonard was the property of the Pacers for all of five minutes before being informed he’d been swapped to the Spurs in a pre-arranged deal for guard George Hill.

The Spurs rookie small forward faces his, ahem, former team for the first time tonight when the Pacers visit the ATT Center.

It’s not as if Leonard will be out for revenge against the team that traded him. He’s enjoying life as a starting member of a Spurs team boasting the Western Conference’s second-best record.

He recalls being neither stunned nor daunted by the trade.

“It still felt good,” Leonard said. “I got drafted that day. I was happy with whatever team wanted me.”

Acquired for his skills as a defender and rebounder, Leonard is averaging 8.3 points, an offensive output that has surprised coach Gregg Popovich. In March, the 6-foot-7 Leonard is contributing 11.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.

“He’s been great all year long,” Tim Duncan said. “Even with Pop getting on him at times, he responds the right way. That’s big for a rook.

“The steals, the one-man fast breaks, all those things — they’re great for us. He adds a new dimension to our team.”

Nash missing Diaw: After obtaining a buyout from Charlotte a little more than a week ago, recently acquired forward Boris Diaw admits he talked to his old friend, Steve Nash, about the possibility of reuniting in Phoenix.

But Diaw wouldn’t go so far as to call it a recruiting pitch.

“He’s a friend, so I talk to him every now and then,” said Diaw, who played for Phoenix from 2005 to 2008. “We were talking about it, when people knew I was on the verge of being bought out by Charlotte. I got some interest from a few teams.”

According to a report in the New York Post, citing an unidentified source, Nash is upset Suns management didn’t do more to lure Diaw back to Phoenix.

Diaw, 29, instead signed with the Spurs, where has averaged 2.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, two assists and 1.4 steals in five games.

False Aussie advertising: Patrick Mills, the Australian point guard who joined the Spurs over the weekend, is sheepish to admit it.

He has indeed been to Outback Steakhouse. What’s more, he kind of liked it.

“I go there for the cheesy fries,” Mills said.

Yes, it’s a little like Yao Ming frequenting Panda Express. Or Eduardo Najera noshing at Taco Bell.

Mills is quick to point out to American diners that Outback probably isn’t the best representative of his home country’s cuisine.

“I might be the most Australian thing in there,” Mills said

Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN

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