David Fizdale, the coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, essentially became a meme at the beginning of the first round by complaining about the foul call disparity between his team and the San Antonio Spurs.
It’s been written about a lot since then, but that foul disparity was not just a first round thing. Throughout the regular season, Memphis ranked 29th in the league at 22.4 personal fouls per game, while San Antonio ranked 6th in the league at 18.3 personal fouls per game. “Grit and grind” seems to be synonymous with foul the opposition.
Take that for data.
But I’m not here to talk about data or fouls. I’m here to talk about the real story of the series – this guy.
When asked about Shaq and Chuck calling him the “second-best” player in the world, Kawhi Leonard’s response was that he didn’t care about such accolades or comments, and that all he cared about is the Spurs. He then proceeded to put the team on his shoulders and put up a first round stat line of 31.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.8 apg, and 2 spg while shooting 55% from the field, 48% from three, and 97% from the free throw line.
This Spurs team is very different from previous iterations, and it has taken some getting used to on the fan side. Kawhi in isolation does not mean that the team isn’t running the plays Pop drew up, or that Pop had one too many glasses of wine before tip-off. Kawhi in isolation is simply who this team is, and honestly it is an extremely dangerous iteration of the Spurs. His court vision has improved exponentially, and any viewer could see that during the Memphis series as Kawhi would make the right pass out of double teams on a consistent basis. His basketball growth has been amazing to watch, and a playoff run led by Kawhi will open a lot of eyes around the league, even if the MVP race is essentially between two point guards who used to be teammates.
And speaking of point guards, how about the playoff resurgence of this guy?
Bring it on, Houston.