Photo: Edward A. Ornelas, San Antonio Express-News
With Kevin Durant active for Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals and Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse stating that Kawhi Leonard would “probably” start the game guarding the Warriors star, it’s time to revisit the pair’s history with one another.
Back in 2014, when Durant was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Leonard was a member of the San Antonio Spurs, Durant suggested that Leonard’s successes could be attributed to the Spurs’ system under head coach Gregg Popovich. In addition, Durant suggested that Paul George, then with the Indiana Pacers, is a far superior player.
“He doing work like this because of the system,” Durant wrote in a now-deleted tweet. “Put Paul George on the Spurs what would happen?”
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After fans and members of the media began calling attention to the tweet, Durant took it down and later wrote on Instagram that he did not mean to offend Leonard.
“I did not hate on Kawhi Leonard, quite honestly if you knew me or been around me, you would see how excited I was for such a young humble guy,” Durant wrote. “But this world loves conflict I see. I really gave major props to coach pop and the whole staff for putting those guys in great positions to be successful. I’ve realized u can’t say anything about a champion so if I hurt anybody’s feeling I apologized (I really don’t) but u get my drift.”
However, Leonard reportedly did not buy Durant’s apology.
In December 2018, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said Leonard still hasn’t forgotten Durant’s tweet.
“From what I understand, when Kawhi heard that quote, that he was a system player, that it really, really pissed him off and that that’s one of the things that you carry with him,” Windhorst said.
So get ready for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, when the two will match up against one another for first time in the series. Durant will not be on a minutes restriction.
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Raptors coach Nick Nurse said the Raptors have been preparing each game for the possibility of facing Durant.
“The reports have been coming out since Game 1 that he would be playing by Game 3, so we prepped each game, 3, 4 and now 5 so it wasn’t like it was a total departure from what we’ve been doing,” Nurse told reporters before the game. “We’ve put in some clips of him today in walkthroughs and stuff.”
Game 5 tips off at 6 p.m. PT.
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