SAN ANTONIO – All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard was asked after the Spurs’ 97-90 overtime victory against Minnesota on Saturday if it’s difficult for him to block out the chatter about the NBA’s MVP race.
Leonard’s reply was not surprising.
“It’s pretty easy for me,” Leonard said. “I don’t watch ESPN, or any radio. Don’t listen to the radio. I go home and just deal with my family.
Does Leonard’s family ever talk about the MVP race?
“It depends, I mean, on who I’m with, but I really don’t talk about it,” he said. “I’ll just be chillin’.”
Leonard was then asked if he likes to talk about the MVP race.
“We could talk about it, but we’ve got to wait and see, really,” Leonard said.
Leonard, who has been named NBA Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons, has stepped up his game on the offensive end as well in 2016-17. Arguably the league’s best two-way wing player, Leonard is averaging 26.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.9 steals.
Houston guard James Harden and Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook are generally considered the front-runners for the MVP award this season, but there’s been more chatter about Leonard in recent weeks.
The Spurs host the Rockets on Monday night and play at OKC on Tuesday.
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters before the game that a good case, “by far,” could be made for either Harden or Leonard to be named MVP.
The Spurs (48-13) and Rockets (44-19) have the second- and third-best records in the league behind Golden State (51-11).
“I think the records, one, show how important they (Harden and Leonard) are,” D’Antoni said. “Neither team would be very good without them. (Their) numbers are mind-boggling. I understand Westbrook has great numbers, too, and he’s great. Nothing against him. We could sit down and we could argue, not argue, but discuss, all day and everybody’s right.
“Triple-doubles are great, but if you’re missing one rebound, it’s like, well, OK. It’s hard not to make a case for James (Harden). It’s impossible. But it’s also impossible for Kawhi and for Westbrook and LeBron (James). We could talk this all day, but they’re all great players.”
Harden heads into Monday night’s game averaging 28.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 11.3 assists and 1.5 steals. Harden has scored 30-plus points and dished out 10-plus assists in 20 games this season.
Westbrook is on pace to become the first player since Oscar Robertson more than 50 years ago to average a triple-double for a season. He’s averaging 31.7 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.0 assists for the Thunder, who are 35-27 and seventh in the West.