Lakers Coach Reveals Why Michael Jordan, Kawhi Leonard Comparisons Are Real

Michael Jordan Yellow Eyes

Getty Fans are concerned about Michael Jordans eyes.

During the Toronto Raptors’ Championship run last season, some compared Kawhi Leonard‘s role with the Raptors to Michael Jordan‘s with the Chicago Bulls.

Last year, Clippers head coach, Doc Rivers stated that Leonard was the most like Jordan that he’s seen.

“He’s the most like him,” Rivers told ESPN.

“Big hands, post-game, can finish, great leaper, great defender, in-between game.”

Some have compared Pascal Siakam to Scottie Pippen.

A similarity can be drawn between Siakam becoming the focal point of the Raptors after Kawhi Leonard’s departure via free agency to the Los Angeles Clippers and Pippen becoming the focal point of the Chicago Bulls when MJ retired from basketball to play baseball during the 1993-94 NBA season.

Pippen averaged 22 points during the 1993-94 season and the Jordan-less Bulls went 55-27 that season.

“We knew we could beat the Knicks without Michael,” Scottie Pippen told me last season.

“Our team bonded so well without Michael, as far as how players responded. We felt like our offense was made for the Knicks.”

The Bulls lost to the Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason and John Starks-led New York Knicks 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Semis in 1994.

This season, Siakam is averaging 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game this season for the Raptors.

Million Dollar Question: Is a 90s Chicago Bulls comparable to the 2019 Toronto Raptors?

Siakam Leonard and Gasol

Getty ImagesPascal Siakam #43, Kawhi Leonard #2, and Marc Gasol #33 of the Toronto Raptors.

Former Raptors assistant coach, Phil Handy has the answer. Now an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, Handy stopped by the Scoop B Radio Podcast & gave his assessment.

Check out my notes below:

Phil Handy on comparisons between Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard to Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen:

“I see a lot of those comparisons and being equal and saying that he’s not Michael and Pascal is Pippen. But when you’re talking about the roles and how they were used and their skill set…Yes. I can see those comparisons because Pascal is a guy that handled the ball a lot for us. He was like a point forward. Sometimes we ran a lot of the offense through him as an additional ball handler on the floor. And obviously Kawhi was the go-to-guy when we needed a bucket; that’s who Nick Nurse tried to get the ball in his hands so, those comparisons are NOT farfetched at all.”

Phil Handy on comparisons between 90’s Chicago Bulls and 2019 Toronto Raptors:

“I mean, you could draw some of those comparisons. I mean Kyle Lowry is a bona fide point guard. He’s an All-Star. He wasn’t a second fiddle dude. I think you look at Serge [Ibaka], does he remind you of Horace Grant when he was shooting that midrange pull up and block shots, long, athletic. Could you look at Marc Gasol like a Luc Longley type of dude; because Luc was a better passer than people gave him credit for …yeah, you could stress some of those comparisons, but I really think the style of play that we had in Toronto was obviously totally different. I think we played way faster than the Bulls team and again, the game has changed, right? Different game, different era, different defensive rules, and different offensive philosophies. So, I think people can draw some comparisons in that regard but, that team in Toronto; they were pretty unique in their setup with the players that they had.”

Phil Handy on where Kawhi Leonard made his biggest transition in play:

“He took everything he learned from San Antonio. Pop [Popovich] and that coaching style down there, they did a great job of helping Kawhi turn into an elite player. And look, he works! He’s a worker and he loves the game. But I think he took the basketball that he learned in San Antonio, “Ok. I know how to play basketball, now lemme take that and lemme mix this with Kawhi Leonard becoming his own man”…so to speak. And I think you saw him mesh both of those things together and Nick [Nurse] allowed him to be free and Nick allowed him to expand his game, explore and be who he was without any restrictions. And I think because he had the discipline from San Antonio, that helped him not fall flat on his face. Because again, he understood how to play and it wasn’t about being reckless and taking bad shots. He was still trying to be very efficient at a high level and make the right basketball plays as he expanded his game.”


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