Seemingly drowned out in the Toronto Raptors' NBA championship celebration was a low-key shoutout by Kawhi Leonard to a name familiar to fans of Philippine basketball in the 1980s.
Leonard credited the San Antonio Spurs, head coach Gregg Popovich, and assistant Chip Engelland for working on his craft.
“Chip is my guy. He’s a great shooting coach and I was in the gym every day,” Leonard said in the post-game interview following the Raptors’ 114-110 win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
Grant Hill, part of the panel interviewing Leonard, said Engelland once spoke glowingly of Leonard’s work ethic.
“I remember how Chip Engelland talked about how hard you worked, and he had to pull you out of the gym 2, 3 times,” Hill said.
Engelland’s reputation as an effective shooting coach was at the center of a Grantland article titled “The Shot Doctor,” which mentions Engelland’s work with Steve Kerr, Tony Parker and Leonard, who was drafted by the Spurs in 2011 with shooting the only facet of Leonard’s game that needed significant fixing.
“First they altered Leonard’s release point, shifting it from a spot over Leonard’s head to one in front of his face . . . Leonard’s effort was well worth it. The new mechanics stuck, and Leonard has been an offensive asset ever since,” wrote Bill Barnwell.
As a college player for San Diego State, Leonard shot 25% from 3-point territory; in 8 seasons so far in the NBA, his clip from downtown is at 37.1%.
In another article, Popovich praised Engelland for his demeanor as a shooting teacher.
“Chip does a great job being low key, but at the same time putting them through paces that keeps them under pressure at the line,”
The Philippines is close to Engelland’s heart, having played in Manila for 3 years.
“I love the Philippines and the Filipino people,” Engelland, a naturalized Filipino, said in an interview with Quinito Henson posted on the Philippine Star in 2013.
“It was a blessing that I got to play in the Philippines. I didn’t want to stay holed up in my apartment, I went out to assimilate and learn as much of the culture as I could. I got to know a lot about Filipino values. I love Filipino food.”
Engelland played a significant role for Northern Consolidated at a FIBA club tournament, and for leading San Miguel Beer to the Jones Cup title in 1985.
That San Miguel squad included the likes of Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim and Hector Calma.
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