Before the relationship between Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard turned sour, Popovich asked Scottie Pippen to give Leonard playing advice following a San Antonio Spurs game in Chicago.
A day after Leonard made his first homecoming to San Antonio as a member of the Toronto Raptors, Pippen said the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and 2014 Finals MVP has improved on things the Hall of Famer had noticed before their meeting.
“I kind of admired his game and told him I’d been watching him and could see he’s been getting better and better,” Pippen said. “And things I felt like he could work on to become even a better player. And I felt like he’s filled all those voids.”
Sources have told ESPN’s Michael C. Wright that Popovich and Leonard have kept in touch since the player was traded to Toronto in July. In November, after Popovich made headlines with comments on Leonard’s leadership, the sources said the two remained solidly in touch via text messages.
“I feel like it’s mended between Coach Pop and Kawhi,” Pippen said. But “obviously” the fans weren’t part of that, the former Bulls star added.
Pippen, speaking to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols and Amin Elhassan, said his meeting with Leonard gave him the impression the two-time All-Star’s public persona accurately reflected his personality.
“It was hard,” Pippen said. “He did speak, but as you guys know, Kawhi’s a very quiet player, so he doesn’t speak much off the court, either. But it was great just to sit down and talk to him.”
Popovich would try just about anything to hold on to Kawhi.
At least he won one championship with him.