There were two things fans of Kawhi Leonard were keenly interested in after the San Diego State standout became a member of the San Antonio Spurs during Thursday’s NBA Draft.

The first seemed rather obvious to me – the opportunity to learn from future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan. The other was how much money he will receive in his first NBA contract.

We’ll get to the contract shortly but I was pretty sure Aztecs’ fans would get the answer to the first question when I heard Leonard would be introduced to San Antonio reporters on Saturday. Surely the Duncan question would be asked, right?

The answer was a resounding no per the five-minute answer-and-question session. Perhaps an enterprising beat writer asked the question during a one-on-one interview afterwards but the most obvious question wasn’t asked during the video feed that can be accessed on the Spurs’ Web site (

Leonard was asked about Dennis Rodman, the former NBA rebounding dynamo about to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame but not about the 35-year-old Duncan, the 13-time All-Star he could potentially replace.

So guess we will have to wait for another time to hear how Leonard – who turns 20 on June 29 – feels about the opportunity to learn from the legendary Duncan, one of the consummate professionals in the NBA.

As for the Rodman comparison, Leonard didn’t shy away from it. Leonard had 23 double-doubles for San Diego State last season and was one of the top college rebounders in the nation.

“I think that’s a good comparison because I try to go after every rebound like Dennis Rodman did,” Leonard said. “Some nights he came up with 20 rebounds, I had one night I had 20 rebounds. It just shows how much passion we have on the defensive end and how much energy we bring to the team.”

Leonard added that he plans to bring the same intensity and work ethic he displayed in his two seasons at San Diego State before bolting for the NBA. He was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 15th pick of the draft and traded to the Spurs later that night for guard George Hill.

As for the salary factor, the NBA has a rookie wage scale that rises by a small percentage each season. So it is likely Leonard’s initial contract will be a little bit higher than what last season’s 15th overall pick received (Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks).

Sanders inked a two-year, $3.59 million deal that paid him $1.73 million last season and $1.86 million for the 2011-12 season. There is a $1.99 million option for the 2012-13 campaign.

So Sanders basically will receive $5.58 million over the first three years of his career and how he performs will decide whether or not the Bucks make him qualifying offers in his fourth ($3.05 million) and fifth ($4.26 million) seasons in the league.

Sanders averaged 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds while averaging 14 minutes per game as a rookie. I figure Leonard should average between 15 to 18 minutes as a rookie.

Leonard was San Diego State’s initial first-round pick since legendary Michael Cage went 14th overall in the star-studded 1984 draft. That famous draft featured legends such as Hakeem Olajuwon (first overall), Michael Jordan (third), Charles Barkley (fifth) and John Stockton (16th).

I was a little surprised that center Malcolm Thomas didn’t get drafted in the latter stages of the draft. All kinds of foreigners with kooky names went late in the draft but Thomas went unselected.

Thomas seemed like a bit of an immature vagabond before arriving at San Diego State after playing one season at Pepperdine, one season at a junior college and applying for the NBA Draft and later pulling his name out before joining the Aztecs.

But he made sacrifices in his game in his two seasons with the Aztecs to fit in and his team-first attitude obviously worked as San Diego State had a school-best 34-3 record and won the first two NCAA tournament games in school history. He is an athletic shot-blocker who figured to get a late-round nibble but didn’t.

Instead, the likes of Milan Macvan, Chukwudiebere Maduabun, Targuy Ngombo and Ater Majok were among the final seven picks of the draft.

Just don’t ask me how to pronounce Chukwudiebere. I won’t have that answer for you.


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