It’s one of the best unintentional comedy moments in NBA history. Kawhi‘s introductory press conference in Toronto gave us a glimpse into the NBA’s most introverted superstar ever. His San Antonio departure was so dramatic and a mystery, but we knew one of the things Kawhi wanted was a bigger market to, I guess, grow his brand. Then this happened.
Everyone who played with him swears by it – Kawhi truly is a fun guy. He’s just not outspoken, but in his own way, Leonard is great to be around. The biggest problem with Kawhi is that almost always, you have no idea what he’s thinking. That’s more of a problem for the front office and media than teammates and coaches. The bubble meltdown showed the Clippers might have used a more vocal leader, but that’s just not who Kawhi is. To a fault.
During the Orlando bubble, Kawhi’s room was directly under his former GM Masai Ujiri. An early riser, Ujiri would work out each morning. How early, you wonder? 5 a.m. early. The workout would wake Kawhi up, but he was reluctant to say anything, so for weeks, Leonard would listen to his former coach burn calories on the Peloton with the sun coming up. Finally, he sent him a text.
“Morning boss, you good up there?”Kawhi Leonard, GQ
We talk about spoiled superstars being catered to, and then you have Kawhi being too shy to text his former GM to tone it down at 6 am every day. This is the most Kawhi thing ever! Not only that, but the text he sent fits with everything we know about him. Like his trash talk – “Bucket. Layup.” Understated but impossible to misinterpret.
Ujiri stopped his morning workouts and joked that he would ramp it up again when the Clippers and Raptors met in the Finals to mess with Kawhi’s sleep. Leonard turned on his trash-talking muscle and reminded Ujiri this is the player empowerment era.
“Haha, you know the saying ‘Don’t poke the bear’? I’m gonna call the NBA on you…get you out the bubble.”Kawhi Leonard, GQ
The Clippers and the Raptors left the bubble before Ujiri got the chance to spin up his Peloton. I wonder how many mornings did Kawhi look at the ceiling, and think to himself, “Should I’ve left Toronto?” Bet you it was more than once.