Injured Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, whose status remains uncertain for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, was named to the All-NBA First Team for the second time in his six-year career Thursday.
Leonard received 96 of a possible 100 first-place votes, easily winning selection to the first team. He was joined by James Harden of the Houston Rockets, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Leonard finished the season as the NBA’s ninth-leading scorer at a career-high 25.5 points per game, becoming the first San Antonio player to average 25.0 points since Tim Duncan in the 2001-02 season.
"I've been here since he was drafted (2012), so I've been able to watch him grow," guard Danny Green said. "Pretty amazing to watch, each year how he's come back better and better."
Leonard is the two-time reigning Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He helped the Spurs (61-21) post the league’s best defensive rating as they registered their third 60-win season in four years.
Leonard was at the Spurs’ workout Thursday morning, but he did not participate in practice.
Nursing a sprained left ankle he re-injured in the series opener against Golden State on Sunday, Leonard could be seen working in the team’s weight room after practice.
“He was sitting nicely on the sideline,” center Pau Gasol told reporters. “I think it’s going well, as well as it can go. We have a good training staff. He’s working with them, trying to get that ankle right.”
Leonard sat out the Spurs’ 136-100 loss to the Warriors in Game 2 on Tuesday night, and his availability is up in the air for Game 3, which tips off at 8 p.m. Saturday at the AT&T Center.
Green said Leonard “looked good” Thursday, adding that he spoke with him and point guard Tony Parker, who was lost for the remainder of the postseason after rupturing a left quadriceps tendon in Game 2 of the conference semifinals against Houston.
“He looked good, too,” Green said of Parker. “I asked him how life was, how things were going. He said he’s strengthening and working on some things, taking it a day at a time, each one of those guys.
With Golden State up 2-0 in the conference finals, the Spurs acknowledged that they must play significantly better in Game 3 than they did in Game 2 – with or without Leonard.
“It’s that time of year when everybody’s kind of on edge,” Green said, when asked if he was still angry after Tuesday night’s embarrassing defeat. “After a loss like that, why wouldn’t anybody be feeling a certain way until the next game.
“Obviously, we have a couple of days to regroup physical, mentally emotionally. Taking it one day at a time, but we’ve all got to come out with that type of edge, that type of focus, that type of attitude in order to play with these guys.”
Tuesday night's loss was the Spurs' worst in the playoffs under Gregg Popovich, who has coached the team since early in the 1996-97 season.
The Spurs took Wednesday off before returning to practice Thursday. Tim Duncan was at the workout and went one on one with point guard Patty Mills after practice, playing defense only.
Guarded primarily by Klay Thompson, Mills has had a rough time in the two games against Golden State. He has made only 3 of 14 shots, including 1 of 10 from the 3-point line, and scored a total of 10 points.
"They're doing some different things, trapping him," Green said. "They're long and athletic and he's a little smaller. They're using their hands and being active. We've got to find different ways to get him more open. He has to be more aggressive himself. I think he's going to come in the same way as LaMarcus (Aldridge), knowing that he's got to be more aggressive for us.
"Look for his shot more, come off screens more, do other things to get himself involved, and also help us win. It's going to take a group effort, whether Kawhi plays or doesn't. It's going to take all of us to step up and be more aggressive offensively and defensively."
Aldridge finished with only eight points on 4-of-11 shooting and four rebounds in Game 2. He also had three turnovers. Popovich called him out after the loss, saying the Spurs need him to score.
"He can't be timid," Popovich said. "He turned down shots in the first quarter. He can't do it. He's got to score. Scoring's got to come from someplace. I think he's got a major responsibility in Game 3 to come out and to get something done.
With Leonard out, the Warriors took Aldridge out of the offense by throwing multiple defenders at him.
"They've never really doubled like that, and triple-teamed at times," Aldridge said. "It was definitely something different than I've seen here, but I've got to play through it, take my shot or try to find an open guy. I think last game it definitely worked to their advantage with me getting passive. Our next game, I won't do that."
Told that Popovich said he needed to score, Aldridge said, "I'm going to be myself and I'm going to take shots."
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