Elizabeth Salaam 7:30 a.m., April 1
Kawhi Leonard - lottery pick?
I'm stepping outside my regular duties because the real drama today isn't on a San Diego stage. It's in Newark, New Jersey, site of this year's NBA draft.
A basketball coach of mine broke the game into three phases: get the ball (defense); protect and move the ball (offensive sets, etc.); score the ball. Most players love #3. I number myself among them. During a game I had only three expressions: "over here," "feed me," and "GIMME THE BALL!"
San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard could become a lottery pick today (one of the first 14 chosen) or, say some, could go higher than any SDSU player ever.
Some question his shooting ability. At SDSU he shot more with his palm than his fingers, but they say he's changing and, with his work ethic, will develop a mid-range touch. As a scorer he could have used another year in school.
But, I've been following basketball since Elgin Baylor was a Seattle Chieftan. And I have never seen a college player do phase one - get the ball - like Leonard. He rebounds in crowds. He makes steals, scoops up loose balls, fights through screens, disrupts, creates havoc. Like Dennis Rodman, for Leonard playing defense is more than personal. It's a calling.
It's been a joy the last two years to watch Leonard play when the other team has the ball. It's as if their offense offends him.
So where will he go in today's draft? To the team smart enough to see his true value.