Kawhi Leonard, left, battling Kevin Durant this season.
Kawhi Leonard is playing right now and helping a winning playoff effort….
Kevin Durant has pulled up hurt and his team is winning without him…
Given an improbable choice, which golden hoop phenom would you prefer: Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard?
Like an eclipse of the moon, the N.B.A. playoffs this season offer an unusual crossing of shadows. Two of the league’s five best players will become free agents on July 1, and no one other than an agent or favorite uncle has a clue where they might wash ashore.
Most attention has focused on Durant, that preternaturally talented seven-foot forward possessed of a feathery touch and a hawk’s eye for a cutting teammate. He has won consecutive championships with the Golden State Warriors, and the chatter is that he might decamp to the New York Knicks and try to reanimate a long ago flatlined team.
The encoded assumption is that Durant is the pick of a fine free agent litter.
Now Kawhi Leonard has shouldered his way into that conversation. He already had tossed up an improbable falling out of bounds game-winning shot, snared one-handed rebounds and wrapped Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ transcendent star, in an iron-claw defensive embrace. Then on Thursday night, limping and no longer airborne, he unpacked his every move, scoring 35 points on an assortment of floaters and jumpers and put backs. He also dished nine assists and pulled down seven rebounds to give the Toronto Raptors a three-games-to-two lead in its Eastern Conference finals series….
image…Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press