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June 1, 2019

Kawhi Leonard

Toronto, Ontario - Practice Day

Q. You look around the city and the city is completely basically enamored with you. Almost like it's a love affair. You go to restaurants, there's the "Ka'wine and Dine" stamp. you talk to fans and you ask them who they think is going to win the title, and they're like "Ka'why not us?" It seems like it's a real love affair right now. What are your thoughts on that and what are your sentiments toward the city of Toronto right now?
KAWHI LEONARD: I appreciate them for their support. Coming in, I wanted to be able to contribute to the team and be able to get them to this point, and we're doing it so far. I just feel like I did something special for them, just this group, just being able to be the first team to get to the NBA Finals for Toronto. that's how fans are. Everyone out here they love, not just me. If you walk through the city or if I'm with one of my teammates, they show them a lot of love as well. it's a great support group out here with the fans and with everyone in Toronto.

Q. Why is Steph Curry so successful at relocating? Obviously he's Steph Curry, so you're going to have five sets of eyes on him at all times, but somehow he's still able to squirt free after he gives the ball up. Why is he so good at that and what's the challenge of sort of preventing that?
KAWHI LEONARD: In game? Obviously, you have to ask him that question. Obviously, I feel like he works on that every day. He's one of the greatest shooters I've ever seen.

With shooters like that, that's what it's about: relocating, finding your spot on the floor and getting to it. He plays with some talented players, smart players that know how to give him the ball in his spots. He's a crafty player. He's been here before. I feel like that's what makes him who he is.

Q. To follow up, so when you happen to end up guarding him off the ball, how tricky is it or what are you trying to do to make sure he doesn't fall out of your line of sight and that you can kind of follow him to where he's going?
KAWHI LEONARD: What I like to do is not try to relax. Stay locked in on him. Chase him as hard as you can. Put a hand up and see where it goes from there. That's pretty much it.

Q. In Game 1 Golden State was trapping you, sending hard doubles your way. Did that bother you at all? And did you find other ways that you can kind of get yourself more free to get your offense going a little bit more in Game 2?
KAWHI LEONARD: I come into the game just trying to win. If I have my mindset on just trying to score the ball, yeah, it could be difficult. But I'm trying to make the right play out there, and obviously if there are two people on me, somebody is open. I could create a collapse situation.

It's really not about me. If they play defense like that, guys are going to step up and make shots. All I could do is keep making the right play. When I do get a free look, make my shots and go back on other end and play defense. It's just not about me scoring or trying to get my offense off. It's a whole collective group out there playing basketball.

Q. What's your process between say Game 1 and Game 2 in terms of how much film do you watch? Who do you listen to in terms of making adjustments? How do you go through those sections so you can keep going through a series?
KAWHI LEONARD: Pretty much the group film with the whole team. We're listening to the coaches. Also whoever has feedback -- me, Kyle, whoever, Norm, Freddie, Serge. Whoever has feedback we're listening and preparing for the next game and seeing what we can do better collectively. From there, just try to watch the game myself, see what positions helped us on both ends of the floor and see what didn't work for us and try to make those mistakes better.

Q. Is there a particular teammate who is very astute and good at knowing your game and what they see?
KAWHI LEONARD: Probably out of everybody who I talk to about film, the most is Kyle. Me and him will watch film or talk to each other, see what we are seeing on the floor, either for ourselves or positions to make our teammates better.

Q. You have a never-get-too-high, never-get-too-low mentality on the court. Where did you learn that? All the way up with the Spurs when you guarded LeBron, you had no emotion, no reaction, you just did your job. Where did you get that from?
KAWHI LEONARD: Probably just growing up playing basketball. That's all could I say. Just being in those experiences like you named. Going through that whole season. Coming right in as a rookie probably helped me just guarding the best player every night. Always wanting to win. Learning from the great teammates that I had then, from Tim [Duncan], Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili]. Seeing how they approached the game -- every game, win, lose, missing a shot, game-winning shot, making a bad mistake. I guess just growing up, being in these moments before. If you're playing a championship game in high school, you kind of get the same feeling.

I just try to take my experiences and just keep moving forward and just have fun. Like I said, just basketball at this point. Win, lose or draw, I'm still going to be living, still got a family. This is all for fun.

Q. Do you even respond when guys try to trash-talk you?
KAWHI LEONARD: It really doesn't happen too much. I really can't say it happens.

Q. To follow up on that question, the fact that you don't get too high really kind of puts you on almost on an island; unlike so many of the star players, not only in the NBA but in all sports, when they do something great, they go nuts. What is it about you that doesn't make you go nuts when something crazy happens in a game, and how does it help you to stay on that even plane that you do?
KAWHI LEONARD: I don't think everybody does. I think it's more paid attention to when I do something good. The camera will go to me or see what I'm doing at that exact moment. But when I watch games from past, from Kobe or Shaq or Mike, they always didn't just go nuts. They made big shots and sometimes they pump their fist and walk back to the bench. So I just think because I really don't do it a lot, a whole lot, like everybody else does.

But for me, it's just the way I play. Until we win the game or it's all done, then I'll show some emotion. But I want to stay even-keeled while I'm going through it.

Q. What do you think the effect is on your opponents, the fact that you don't get all charged up when things happen in a game?
KAWHI LEONARD: I'm not sure. I don't think about what they're thinking.

Q. Nick was saying earlier Marc Gasol has probably had the lowest of the lows earlier in this postseason, but then he was big in Game 1. What has he meant to you and to this team coming to Toronto at the deadline?
KAWHI LEONARD: He's been great. He's a good rim protector. He's been guarding everybody in the post for us. In our first series, he guarded [Nikola] Vucevic. Then guarding [Joel] Embiid in the second series, he did a great job defensively. Just another smart player on the floor that's been through the ups and downs of the NBA. Veteran guy who is just ready for the moment. Him being able to orchestrate the offense at the top of the key, able to shoot the three, it helps everybody. He's just playing well on both ends of the floor.

Q. You talked all the way along about how you want to have fun playing basketball. When you first came here, you said you wanted to win championships and put your name in those record books. You won a title in San Antonio, were Finals MVP, but you never had this experience as the centerpiece on a team that's come this far. Have you ever had more fun playing basketball than you have during this run? Or how does it compare maybe to the enjoyment you've derived from the game over your career?
KAWHI LEONARD: Pretty much other than my first year, I just pretty much started having fun. When you come in as a rookie, you're trying to stay in the league and you don't know what the league is about or if you're going to stick. After that, I pretty much been have been trying to enjoy the game. Obviously, it's a lot more fun when you're getting plays called for you and you're able to live your childhood dream in being able to shoot the ball 20 times a game. The offense is coming toward you rather than just being out there doing one job. Because when you first come in as a rookie, unless you're like a top-10 player, you're really not going to touch the floor a whole lot or get the offense run through you.

That kind of throws you off, or for me just like puts you in a box somewhat. You have to figure out a way to have fun. Like I said, being a child, I didn't envision myself just being in a box in the NBA. But once that time comes, I feel like you're just having more fun and you're able to experience the game and grow as a player, making plays, seeing double teams and finding other guys. It just gets more fun. You're able to do a lot more.

Q. Has it ever been more fun for you than this run with all the stuff you've gotten to do, the shot against Philly, the Milwaukee series, all of that?
KAWHI LEONARD: I feel like I made some big shots in my career before. I mean, obviously not like the ones now, but it's been fun. I can't complain about my career. I had a great time each step of the way. I had fun with my whole journey.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Kawhi.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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