Leonard says ‘My motor’s still going’

After playing 64 regular-season games and all four games of the Spurs’ first-round playoff sweep of the Utah Jazz, forward Kawhi Leonard feels he is ready for whatever comes next.

“I feel real good physically,” the 20-year-old rookie from San Diego State said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m just excited by that playoff intensity. It’s got my body motor still going. I’m ready to play right now.”

Leonard moved into the starting lineup after the March 16 trade that sent veteran Richard Jefferson to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Stephen Jackson and has remained there since, including the four first-round games against the Jazz. He logged an average of 20 minutes per game and produced averages of 7.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in his first taste of postseason play.

“I thought he did well,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He was steady. He didn’t make very many mistakes. He executed the defensive rotations, team-wise.

“On offense he seemed calm. He took his shots. I thought he did very well.”

Forewarned by veteran teammates about the increased physicality and intensity of the postseason, Leonard came through his first playoff experience unfazed.

“The first round was just what I expected: high-intensity basketball, everybody just continuing to try to win and get to the next round,” he said. “Nothing really surprised me in the games at all.”

Leonard’s preparation for the Western Conference semifinals has included watching each of the Clippers-Grizzlies games, but his focus during the hiatus between rounds has remained with the Spurs.

“I’ve been watching them play to see what those teams are doing during the playoffs and just to see what’s working for them,” he said, “but I’m staying with us trying to get better as a team right now and not worrying about who I’m guarding next.

“Once we find out who we’re playing, I’ll start getting some scouting on them and go from there.”

Twin peeks: The late starts of Clippers-Grizzlies games have allowed Spurs guard Manu Ginobili to focus on watching those games and take a few notes on how the potential second-round opponents are playing.

Ginobili said he gets his twin 2-year-old sons, Nicola and Dante, in their pajamas and off to bed just about tipoff time.

“The later the better,” he said of his TV viewing of playoff games. “They usually go to bed at 8:30 or 9, so before that, it’s very hard to watch anything. But once they are in bed, the games in the West are easy for me to watch.”

Money matters: By getting to the conference semifinals, the Spurs added $230,853 to their pool of playoff money that will be distributed to players once the playoff run ends.

Added to the $328,078 they earned for finishing with the best record in the West and the $194,016 that went to every team that participated in the first round, the Spurs’ share of the NBA’s $13 million playoff pool is up to $752,947.


Twitter: @Monroe_SA

Leave a Reply