Kawhi Leonard has a fan in Pau Gasol.
Per the Associated Press’ Greg Beacham:
Pau Gasol: "I think Kobe is on his own level, but Kawhi is definitely one of the most special players I've ever played with."
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) February 26, 2017
Knowing what we do now about Kobe Bryant’s play style in his prime, comparisons to Bean don’t hold the same cachet they once did. But this is still high praise.
If anything, it’s a testament to Leonard’s work ethic. Kobe has long been lauded for his almost-psychopathic diligence, and with the way Leonard has gone from a defensive specialist, to a knockdown three-point shooter, to a featured offensive weapon, to perhaps the best-player-in-San-Antonio-Spurs-franchise-history-in-training, it should come as no surprise that the time he spends honing his craft is likely second to none.
And remember, Gasol isn’t particularly hard to please. He doesn’t take public pot shots at teammates, but you didn’t hear him gushing poetic about Jimmy Butler during his time with the Chicago Bulls. Maybe it’s easier to spew unconditional love when you’re winning more games than anyone not named the Golden State Warriors. Or perhaps Gasol was uber-supportive or Butler behind-closed doors.
Or maybe, just maybe, all these things are true and Leonard is still one of the best teammates in NBA history.