Kawhi Leonard will miss own HOF induction to play in Spurs’ preseason finale

Photo: SD Dirk via Flickr.com

Photo: SD Dirk via Flickr.com

It’s well-known across the NBA that Kawhi Leonard is all work and no play.

He took that mantra to another level this week when he announced he would not be attending his induction into San Diego State University’s Hall of Fame this weekend.

The reason?

He would rather be on the court for the San Antonio Spurs preseason finale.

“My goal right now is to get this team better,” Leonard said on Monday, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “I thank San Diego State for honoring me and I wish those guys luck in the upcoming season. They understand what I’m trying to accomplish.”

Leonard is now the alpha male on a Spurs team that won 67 games last year but was upended in the second round of the postseason by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Though veteran Tim Duncan retired this summer, the Spurs added Pau Gasol to help LaMarcus Aldridge in the paint and San Antonio should once again be a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

Leonard is fresh off of making his first All-Star team last season, thanks to a career-high 21.2 points which complimented his 2.6 assists and 6.8 boards per game.

But the 25-year-old may be best known for his defense, which is arguably the most effective in the league.

The reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year ranked in the top-10 in nearly every major defensive category last season.

In 2015-16, his 96.0 defensive rating ranked third behind only Duncan and Miami’s Hassan Whiteside. His 5.5 defensive win shares (an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense) was second only to Atlanta’s Paul Millsap.

Perhaps more impressive, those defensive win shares have improved in each of Leonard’s five seasons in the league.

His outstanding play can be dated back to the same school honoring him on Friday night.

Before being drafted by the Indianapolis Pacers in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft (he was traded to the Spurs the same day), Leonard was one of the best players in San Diego State’s history.

In his sophomore season, he averaged 15.5 points, 10.6 boards, and 2.5 assists, leading the Aztecs to the program’s first NCAA “March Madness” tournament win and into the Sweet 16 as the team won a school-record 34 games.

Leonard was a second-team All-American in 2011 and made the Mountain West all-league first team in both 2010 and 2011.

Now, his work ethic has led him to become one of the most respected players in the NBA.

After winning the 2014 NBA Finals MVP for his work defending LeBron James, James called him the best defender he has faced.

Surely, Leonard is still looking for ways to get better.

SDSU’s Hall of Fame ceremony is Friday night, but Leonard will be in San Antonio playing the Houston Rockets.

The Spurs open up the regular season on Oct. 25 in the Bay against the two-time defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors.

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