Kawhi Leonard, just like Paul George, enters the 2020/21 NBA season with a lot of pressure. The Clippers were seen as the biggest favorites to win it all last season and they mightily failed at it, losing a 3-1 advantage over the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2020 playoffs in the bubble.
Now they won't have to live in the bubble and the scenario will be different. Still, they have to deliver or live ashamed, watching other teams lifting the NBA trophy while they're unable to at least play in the Western Conference Finals. Paul George has owned his failure of last season and he's vowed to deliver a title to the Clippers while he's part of the team. It's been different for Kawhi, though, who hasn't talked much about the expectations for this season.
Plenty of people are waiting to see what Leonard will do in the upcoming season and how much he owes to the Clippers after all his demands. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith explained why Leonard needs to step up this season and bring a title to the Clippers since he "has not been worth it" for the team (2:01 mark).
"Not only he's galvanizing, but he is dividing indirectly because if you take into account the beef between Montrezl Harrell and Paul George, assuming there's truth to that, which obviously I heard. Well, where would that stuff with Paul George come from? In terms of how Paul George and Kawhi Leonard was being treated. Remember, Kawhi Leonard was a 2x NBA champion, he was a 2x NBA Finals MVP but Paul George was receiving similar treatment even though he had never been to the Finals, let alone captured two championships and two NBA Finals MVP. So where would that come from? It would feed off Kawhi Leonard because Kawhi Leonard made Paul George's arrival a condition upon him arriving with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Stephen A. then explained that LeBron James never made this a condition for signing with a team. He teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami taking pay cuts, not forcing the Heat to land this player or that one. Then in Cleveland, Kyrie Irving was already there when he arrived and Kevin Love wanted out of Minnesota, so Bron didn't have to force anything. And with the Lakers, he did want Anthony Davis but the Brow landed in LA a year after LeBron made it to the city with the Lakers.
"Kawhi Leonard sat up there and held the Clippers accountable in that regard so when you do all of that, in LA, knowing Ballmer's got a new arena coming near where the LA Forum used to be, knowing that you're trying to compete with the Lakers as if that's possible, knowing the backdrop of all of this and utilizing that to your advantage, not only to get what you want monetarily but in every other way imaginable, thereby forcing the Clippers to damn their mortgage, their future, you owe them more than 27 and 7 or being an elite defensive player or an All-Star. You owe it to them to do everything you possibly can in order to win. I don't know Kawhi Leonard like that, we say "hi" and "bye", all I know is he's a great guy, a nice guy the whole bit. I'm just highlighting for you what the Clippers' situation is and based on that, Kawhi Leonard has not been worth it thus far."
Stephen A. made a solid point there. Kawhi made the Clippers move every rock to get a trade done for Paul George, sending a lot of picks to Oklahoma City for PG13. They need to deliver, Kawhi needs to deliver ASAP and do what he did with the Raptors in 2019. The competition won't be easy, of course, but Leonard has demonstrated he's not afraid of the challenge regardless of how big it is. That's the Kawhi the Clips want to see this season and see if they can finally win an NBA championship.