NBA

Kawhi Leonard feeling 'way better' than 12 months ago

By Sports Desk September 30, 2019

Kawhi Leonard feels "way better" heading into the new NBA season than he did ahead of a 2018-19 campaign that ended in glory with the Toronto Raptors.

Leonard led the Raptors to their first championship last term but spent much of the year still dealing with a quadriceps injury he had suffered prior to his trade from the San Antonio Spurs.

The forward played just 60 games in the regular season before establishing himself as the league's standout performer in the playoffs and leading Toronto to Finals glory.

Leonard subsequently left and signed for the Los Angeles Clippers, along with Paul George, and is optimistic he can have a big impact immediately in California.

"It's different this season," he said at the Clippers' media day. "Last year, I was going in with an injury that I was dealing with the year before.

"It still was lingering, and we knew that I'd have to be healthy going throughout the season and making it into the playoffs.

"But this year I'm pretty good, feeling way better than I was at the start of last season."

Leonard was asked what he learned from championship-winning teams at the Spurs and the Raptors and referred to the need to stay healthy, which led to Toronto managing his minutes.

"For me, it's everybody being of high character; the sacrifice, wanting to win, determination, knowledge," he said. "All that together, just being on the floor, going out there as one unit, all trying to accomplish that ultimate goal.

"I think that's what drives a championship team, and you just figure out the bumps in the road on the way there. It's all a journey and not get ahead of yourself and not skipping any steps.

"That's what I think the process is on those two teams. But you also have to stay healthy, as well, and you have to be present."

Should he come through the season unscathed, Leonard would like to play for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics next year, yet he insists his focus is first on the Clippers.

"Right now, yeah, I do want to play [for Team USA]," he said. "But I'm taking it one step at a time. Right now, it's [about] getting the Clippers to the Finals."

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