NBA

Emotional Kawhi Leonard hails 'amazing' LA return after winning Clippers debut

By Sports Desk October 23, 2019

Kawhi Leonard was filled with emotion as he described an "amazing" return to Los Angeles after leading the Clippers to victory over the Lakers on the NBA's opening night.

Without Paul George, the Clippers won 112-102 against a Lakers team containing LeBron James and Anthony Davis at Staples Center.

Leonard produced an influential performance, as a game-high 30 points came with six rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block.

He was heavily booed by Lakers fans after turning down the chance to join the team in favour of joining their city rivals.

But Leonard, who won the NBA title with the Toronto Raptors last year, provided the perfect answer, hitting seven straight shots at one stage as the Clippers scored 40 points in the second quarter.

"All those emotions went through me again," Leonard said of his Clippers debut back in his hometown.

"Once I'm playing the game, I'm locked in. But before the game last night there were a lot of emotions, knowing my family was going to be here and that I'm going to be playing here at Staples, my hometown – it's just amazing.

"It was great, a lot of emotions, game one. I'm just happy we came out and got a victory. We played a great practice the last week, everyone competing and pushing everybody's limits and we had some carry over.

"I just made shots pretty much. I felt like I got to my spots early, missed some little chippies but started making shots. That's what happens."

Lakers fans targeted Leonard with boos when the lineups were announced and again as he attempted to address the Clippers' fans before the game.

"I just heard a loud noise," he said. "I was just trying to be as loud as I can. I wasn't sure if the Clipper fans were being loud or if it was the Laker fans.

"I didn't pay attention to it too much. I was just trying to let the fans know the appreciation we have for them for coming out."

Clippers coach Doc Rivers was impressed by Leonard's first outing, while also recognising the importance of the bench, who outscored the Lakers' second unit 60-19.

"He talks with his game," Rivers said of Leonard. "I think that's the way it should be. It's a great sign of leadership.

"He was intense. You could feel the intensity, there's no doubt about that. And this bench is going to be better this year than even last year."

Leonard, who was 10-of-19 shooting in 32 minutes, added: "These guys were a playoff team last year, they fight hard every single night. We are not going to stop just because I'm here or Paul's here.

"We're missing a couple more pieces still, with Paul and a great defender Rodney [McGruder] too."

The Clippers have another high-profile game up next, on the road against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

Related items

  • Giannis makes history in Bucks win, Pelicans eclipse Suns Giannis makes history in Bucks win, Pelicans eclipse Suns

    Giannis Antetokounmpo enjoyed an historic performance as the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the Portland Trail Blazers 137-129 in the NBA.

    Reigning MVP Antetokounmpo posted his second triple-double of the season via 24 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high 15 assists on Thursday.

    Antetokounmpo became the first Bucks player with a 20-point, 15-rebound and 15-assist game.

    Bucks team-mate Eric Bledsoe added 30 points and six assists as Milwaukee improved to 12-3 for the season following six straight wins.

    The Trail Blazers – playing without Damian Lillard – lost their third consecutive game, despite a game-high 37 points from CJ McCollum.

    After scoring 10 points on debut, 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.

    Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans upstaged the Phoenix Suns 124-121 on the road.

    Brandon Ingram (28), JJ Redick (26) and Jrue Holiday (23) combined for 77 points in Phoenix, where the Pelicans extended their winning streak to three games.

    Kelly Oubre Jr. led the Suns with 25 points, while Devin Booker had 19 of his own.

     

    Rockets at Clippers

    On a day the Los Angeles Lakers travel to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Boston Celtics take on the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers host the slumping San Antonio Spurs, Friday's showdown in Los Angeles stands out. Barring anymore load management, it will be the Clippers' Kawhi Leonard and Paul George against Houston Rockets pair James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

  • Paul George lauds Kawhi Leonard after duo's maiden Clippers outing Paul George lauds Kawhi Leonard after duo's maiden Clippers outing

    Paul George was thrilled to take to the court alongside Kawhi Leonard for the first time as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Boston Celtics 107-104 in overtime.

    After injuries to both players postponed their maiden outing together, the wait was ended in Wednesday's clash with the Celtics in LA.

    George put up 25 points and eight assists, while Leonard finished with a 17-point haul that included a dazzling dunk over the towering Daniel Theis.

    And George was full of praise for his fellow Spurs star.

    "I mean, that's the Finals MVP, man," George said of Leonard. "He knows when it's time to take over.

    "He's been there and he's won championships with multiple ball clubs, so he knows how to stomp and put that foot on opponents' neck and that's what you saw him do tonight.

    "It was fun to see what this team can look like on the defensive end, and offensively it was fun to see how we can play off each other.

    "The fact of the matter is we are going to have growing pains and I think the most positive thing is we understood that.

    "Nobody was pointing fingers or dropping their heads in huddles ... at no point was this team ever dysfunctional."

    For his part, Leonard recognises there is room for improvement as the duo bed in alongside each other, with game time the key.

    "It's pretty much just finding each other's spots and knowing the plays," Leonard said.

    "It's still tough. We are both kind of on a minute restriction, hard to get into a flow. But just knowing plays and each other's spots and the language on the defensive end [will help].

    "Repetition is what we need right now."

  • Popovich frustrated as Spurs losing streak goes on Popovich frustrated as Spurs losing streak goes on

    Gregg Popovich cut a frustrated figure as he reflected on yet another defeat for the San Antonio Spurs, whose losing streak now stretches to seven games.

    The Spurs went down 138-132 to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday and have not endured such a torrid run of form since the 1996-97 season.

    It left coach Popovich in no mood to get too deep into analysis as he summed it up with some simple logical reasoning.

    "All in all, if you score 132 points, you should probably have a pretty good chance to win a game," he said.

    "The bad news is, if you give up 138, you are not going to win.

    "I'm a really smart guy. I'm figuring that's logical. I could be wrong. There's not much else to say."

    DeMar DeRozan struck an even more downbeat tone than his boss, despite his own contribution of 31 points. 

    "Every single game we've lost feels worse than the last game," said the four-time NBA All-Star.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.