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“It Was Refreshing”: Rudy Gay Has a ‘Unique’ Take to Kawhi Leonard’s Final Days With Spurs

Shubham Singh

“It Was Refreshing”: Rudy Gay Has a ‘Unique’ Take to Kawhi Leonard’s Final Days With Spurs

Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs found their franchise centerpiece when Kawhi Leonard won the 2014 Finals MVP at 23. The Claw’s two-way dominance was the perfect way for the Spurs to build another dynasty in the post-Tim Duncan era. However, the wheel didn’t turn their way, and Leonard left just two years after the Spurs’ 3x Finals MVP retired, in 2016. As per his former teammate Rudy Gay, the legendary two-way player cut off all communications during his final season with the Spurs.

On Carmelo Anthony’s ‘7PM in Brooklyn’ podcast, Gay lauded the 2x Finals MVP for “standing his ground” while calling his last few days with the franchise “bizarre”.

The 37-year-old considers his refusal to play for the Spurs as an example of “player empowerment”. Leonard’s determination reminded Gay about LeBron James who has been at the forefront of player empowerment, as he said,

It’s one of the craziest situations I’ve been part of, it was refreshing though to see. That was like first time in a long time I’ve ever seen someone stand on it. I mean stood on it ‘this is what I want’. That was the beginning of an era, obviously, you know Bron, with the player empowerment.

The former Grizzlies forward argued that the 2x DPOY wanted to “change the scenery” and start afresh amidst persistent knee injury issues. He also recalled that Leonard refused to show up for games because he didn’t want to deal with excessive pressure without any gain. 

You dealing with the scrutiny and criticism every day, why have to deal with none of that, he ain’t show up,” Gay added.

Thus, the 2007 NBA All-Rookie First Team had a first-hand account of Leonard’s final days with the franchise that helped him elevate his game. Apart from him, LaMarcus Aldridge was also in the mix during the Leonard-Spurs saga.

Gregg Popovich’s beyond-the-basketball routines turned the Claw off

In early January 2024, LaMarcus Aldridge appeared on ‘All the Smoke’ podcast and discussed Leonard’s sour Spurs exit with Stephen Jackson. As per him, Coach Pop made players do extra-curricular things apart from basketball. The Claw wasn’t willing to do such stuff and wanted to concentrate on improving his hooping skills.

Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not going to speak for anybody, but he didn’t want to do all the other s**t that Pop did, too, the learning s**t. He just wanted to hoop. Not everybody wants to learn about what’s in Africa or learn the maps. He just wanted to hoop. I don’t say it’s right or wrong, he just didn’t want to do that,” Aldridge told Jackson.

Stephen Jackson was also Leonard’s teammate during the 2012-13 season and understood why Pop’s teaching methods turned his former teammate off. Jackson revealed that Popovich has always challenged his players in numerous ways, that weren’t always related to basketball.

While he wanted to make Kawhi Leonard a “better person”, this approach turned off the athlete who was supposed to be their franchise centerpiece.

Post Edited By:Hitesh Nigam

About the author

Shubham Singh

Shubham Singh


Shubham Singh is an NBA Journalist at SportsRush. He found his passion in Writing when he couldn't fulfil his dream of playing professional basketball. Shubham is obsessed with box scores and also loves to keep track of advanced stats and is, particularly, fond of writing CoreSport analytical pieces. In the league, his all time favorites were 80s Bad Boys, Pistons, while Dennis Rodman and his enthralling rebounding made him love the game more. It also made him realize that the game is much more than fancy scoring and playmaking. Shubham is also a huge fan of cricket and loves to watch all forms of women sports.

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