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Clippers news: Kawhi Leonard responds to Nets’ Kevin Durant’s comments about him

Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Clippers, Nets

LOS ANGELES – Before joining the LA Clippers and Brooklyn Nets, respectively, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant were facing off in the NBA Finals as members of the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, Durant only managed to play 12 minutes against Leonard and the Raptors.

Kevin Durant suffered a calf injury in Game 5 of the West semis against the Houston Rockets. He returned a little over a month later for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a potential elimination game, only to play a quarter’s worth of basketball before tearing his Achilles early in the second quarter.

Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard also faced one another during the 2012 postseason. The OKC Thunder got past the San Antonio Spurs in six games, but lost to the Miami Heat in the championship round. Leonard, however, was only a rookie that season, and hadn’t even scratched the surface of what he could become.

Leonard is 7-6 against Durant in the regular season. Durant has the postseason edge against Leonard with a 12-8 head-to-head record. Of course, Durant likely out for the 2019-20 season, so that’s likely to stand until next year.

Earlier this week, Kevin Durant did a Twitter Q&A with fans on The Boardroom account, and one of the questions asked him to list his top 5 toughest players to defend in the NBA. The two-time NBA Finals MVP named Kawhi Leonard along with Paul George, Lou Williams, LeBron James, and Joel Embiid.

To no one’s surprise, Leonard said he had not seen the comments made by Durant, but did express his appreciation.

“I didn’t see, but I appreciate him,” said Leonard. “It just shows me how hard I’ve worked. Coming in, playing him in the playoffs my first year, I wasn’t a go-to guy at all. That’s a great honor to hear him say that.”

Durant’s comments are a rapid change from ones he made a few years ago, crediting Leonard’s great play to the Spurs system.

It took Leonard a few years to blossom into the star he is today. The declines of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan didn’t hurt either. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who oversaw Leonard’s rapid rise to stardom, isn’t surprised by anything that we’re seeing from him now.

“How many years did we have him?” Popovich asked rhetorically back in November. “We saw everything from the beginning. He grew from day one the entire time he was there. Grew into the Kawhi Leonard you see today. He did a lot of work. Our staff did a lot of work. He came a long way. He was fantastic.”

Through the first half of the season, Kawhi Leonard has averaged 26.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.9 steals, and 2.0 three-pointers per game on 46.5 percent shooting from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. He’s led the Clippers to the third best record in the Western Conference at 29-13.