San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard was named the 2014-15 KIA NBA Defensive Player of the Year on April 23.
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is the 2014-15 KIA NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
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According to a press release on the Spurs' official website, Leonard is the first Spurs player to win the award since David Robinson 23 years ago:
"The San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard, who became only the sixth forward to lead the NBA in steals per game since the league started tracking the statistic 42 years ago, is the recipient of the 2014-15 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, the NBA announced today.
"He becomes the first Spurs player to win the award since David Robinson in 1991-92.
"Leonard garnered 37 first-place votes and 333 total points from a panel of 129 sportswriers and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. He edged the Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green, who tallied 45 first-place votes and 317 points.
"The Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan finished third with 261 points (32 first-place votes). Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote received.
"The 6-7 Leonard averaged career highs of 2.31 steals and 5.9 defensive rebounds to help anchor a Spurs defense that held opponents under 100 points per game (97.0) for the 20th consecutive season.
"According to NBA.com/Stats, San Antonio ranked third in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 99.6 points per 100 possessions. The Spurs gave up only 97.1 points per 100 possessions when Leonard was on the court, a defensive rating that would have led the league over the entire season.
"When Leonard was off the court, though, San Antonio permitted 102.2 points per 100 possessions, a league-average defensive rating."
MySanAntonio.com's Dan McCarney says the 23-year-old Leonard is the youngest player ever to win the award since another former San Antonio Spur, won Defensive Player of the Year honors after the 1985-86 NBA season.
Leonard also joins some elite company.
He becomes just the third player in league history to be named NBA Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year after Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, per McCarney.
Leonard told MySanAntonio.com he gives credit to his coaches and teammates for his latest feat:
"It just feels amazing, winning this award. The coaches give me a game plan every night and I just go out there and try to execute it to the best of my ability. Without a group of guys who want to play defense, it's very hard to be a good individual defender.
"It's just a great award to win. I'm happy also to be a part of the Spurs organization. They gave me a championship mindset and they just allowed me to play defense first. I was able to come out and show my ability on the floor each and every night.
"So I just want to thank (Spurs general manager) RC (Buford) and them for (trading for) me, and Coach Pop (Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich) for coaching me."
The Indiana Pacers drafted Leonard in 2011 but traded him to San Antonio for point guard George Hill that year, per McCarney.
For winning the 2014-15 KIA NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, Leonard also won a 2016 KIA Sorento for him to donate to a charity of his choice. He donated the car to Respite Care, an organization which aims to provide for special-needs children who have been abused and neglected, per Lorne Chan of Spurs.com
Chan says "the car will help take children to doctors' appointments, foster homes and field trips."
Respite Care CEO and president Bert Pfiester told Chan his charity takes care of kids who have mental disabilities such as autism, seizure disorders and physical injuries.
"Some of our kids have come to us straight from the hospital," Pfiester told Spurs.com. "For Kawhi to make this gesture, he's holding these kids high, and many of these kids have never had someone think of them."
For his part, Leonard told Chan making a difference in others' lives is more important than collecting accolades.
"The trophy's probably going to collect dust, but the vehicle is going to come in handy," Leonard told Spurs.com. "Respite Care needs that car to transfer kids and give them a chance to see a better side of life."
Chan says Respite Care needs to make around 30 doctor appointments weekly. The 2016 KIA Sorento is its first new vehicle since its inception 28 years ago.
Leonard has averaged 12.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 steals in his four-year NBA career, per ESPN stats.
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