Steve Buscemi played Miter Shhh in What to do in Denver when you die. He was, within the cult film from the 90s, a quiet and taciturn character who did his job extremely efficiently.. He said only what was necessary, and only when it was absolutely necessary. Combined with all of his outstanding work ethic, it’s possible to see Mister Shhh traits in Kawhi Leonard. At least the Kawhi of his early years as a pro: quiet, discreet, but flawless on the basketball court, capable of outshining anyone who came before him, and even being the heir to a famous dynasty. That Kawhi won a ring, Finals MVP and two defensive awards, as well as the steals lead and two All-Star selections.. It was a glorious time for a player who had the capacity to be the best in the NBA. But…
Kawhi is nothing like the player he promised to be. Nor does he have the character to match the circumstances. He came to the Clippers in 2019 after winning an outstanding ring with the Raptors with legendary averages (more than 30 points and 9 rebounds in the playoffs). and the game-winning shot against the Sixers in Game 7 of the conference finals that was left for posterity. It was only then that he looked like one of the best of all time and got the talent that many thought he had. But there was no continuity: in the next three seasons he played 109 out of 226 possible games (less than 50%), he spent the whole of last and this season empty, and everyone is talking about the Clippers entering the title pools, averaging 10 points with 13% on a three-pointer… and 14 absences in 19 games. His lower body issues, the ones that marked his distance and subsequent departure from Spurs and which no one knows exactly What are theyThey reappeared, but the Clippers are not exactly sure what is happening with their player, something unprecedented in the NBA where everyone is ready to give explanations except when it comes to Kawhi, a player nobody knows and never counts.
The Clippers, unlike Kawhi, aren’t bad at all: 11-8, Western Conference quarterfinals, well-coached, unfairly underrated, but ring champion (2016, lest anyone forget), Tyronn Lue; and compete in front of the whole world. Before the loss to the Warriors (without Paul George or… Kawhi) they had won three straight and have more than 23 points per night from Paul George, a good role from Marcus Morris or Normal Powell, very valuable minutes from the bench John Wall… The Angelenos move in the trenches, get strong in the mud: They’re the worst offense in the NBA, but the second-best defense. Nobody takes fewer shots per game than them, but they pick their shots well (they have the 8th best field goal percentage).. And they add up victories without standing out in any statistics of the League at the global level: they are eighth in the number of team rebounds, fifth with the fewest assists, seventh with the fewest steals, eleventh with the fewest blocks, the same place they occupy in three-point attempts. but they add up; with a slow game (9th slowest franchise according to pace), They always make it to the last quarters alive, in which they make perfect decisions by making the right decisions. In fact, they achieved 8 of their 11 victories by 10 points or less, with the difference being that they were only defeated three times. Next to nothing.
So what about Kawhi?
Kawhi’s problems, which at 31, at a theoretical age to enjoy premierehas more physical discomfort than many League veterans, They structurally affect the Clippers and create many doubts for the final stage: their absences are no longer a condition, but a fact that it became so on the basis of persistent and unfortunate repetition. And the possibility that he won’t be around when the team needs him the most raises doubts and affects Tyronn Lue on the sports front. You have to come up with a game plan with or without Kawhi, adapt it to your teammates, decide whether or not to give him the ball in the tight ends and even bring him into the rotation, as a starter or not (add a couple of replacements from his return), when are they going to get him on the field and how will the rest of the team play who can’t be aware?already at this point, if one of his two theoretical stars will be available when the moment of truth arrives.
Right now, Lue is doing well, he always has, Kawhi’s minutes on the way back and that eternal question of how long he will be on the right track and, above all, when to give in. Kawhi played 24, 22 and 23 minutes in the three wins immediately following his return, and played 7, 4 and 6 minutes in the final quarters, coming in and out depending on the score.. He didn’t attempt more than 11 shots in any of the three nights (he attempted nearly 20 in his first season in Los Angeles), but his frequency was significant: three straight wins, two in tight finals in which he played a part, with a role in a defense that was almost always correct. Without interfering too much in the attack, he knew how to let his teammates take the initiative and dedicate himself to gaining confidence and being important to his team. He accepted the role of substitute when it was his turn. But he’s still too big a player at this point: he’ll make 42 million this season, 45 and 48 the next two. Too much money for a star that has long since lost its light… and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get it back, at least in the short term.
The virtue of silence… or not
Outside of his athletic level, far from what he should have had and what he came to have, Kawhi’s problem always revolves around his lack of communication. In a competition like the NBA, where communication between reporters and players is fluid and constant, Kawhi is still a strange element who has become an absolute star to whom everything is forgiven, a toxic product that ends up hurting even the franchise it may belong to. Many times he is not with his teammates when he is offside and can not even be seen in the stands, he was not up to par in the bubble playoffs and was injured again the next year, in 2021, when the Clippers entered the conference. final for the first time in history. He is not reliable from the extraordinary level shown with the Raptors and the last few times when there were rumors of a return to the slopes in style, it ended disappointingly, a feeling that directly depends, let’s remember, on expectations.
Nobody knows anything. Not Tyronn Lue (or his coach on duty), not the franchise, not his teammates. skip a back to back it has become a common practice without knowing it why, often counting on a doctor’s approval that is not in line with their wishessomething that became a common denominator since he had those problems with the Spurs that caused the shakeup that ended his stay in San Antonio, with his ascension to the throne of Tim Duncan and the plans of a franchise that was overtaken by the situation and ultimately lost its good name for management and good dealing with players, a rule that has only been broken with the often impossible-to-please Kawhi. There was his famous Environmenta word that has been thrown around a lot since those tumultuous months, he was unhappy with Spurs’ medical teamwhich is why the striker went to New York for treatment, where he sought a second opinion without the Texas team being aware of or, of course, agreeing.
Kawhi’s story runs its course, however vastly different from what it could have become. There is always time for redemption and taking the blame, and an example of this is the improvement of his relationship with Gregg Popovich, with whom he hugged and talked in the Clippers’ victory against the Spurs.. But the amount of money he has pending and his strange behavior, sometimes inexplicable and sometimes morally reprehensible, raise many doubts about the man who is a real enigma. And silence, which can be a virtue, has become the trait that bothers Kawhi the most, who in his opinion was an enviable professional in the first part of his career (he played a maximum of 74 games in 2016-17, and did not exceed 60 since leaving the Spurs) … just like Mister Shhh u What to do in Denver when you die. But beware, Steve Buscemi’s character doesn’t exactly end well in that movie (sorry for the spoilers). It is at that moment of relaxation when they finish hunting him. Although it achieves one unequivocal thing: die killing. We’ll see what happens with Kawhi. Shut up for now. For a change.