Kawhi Leonard remains sideline in the 2017-18 NBA season, unable to help the San Antonio Spurs secure a playoff spot in the deep Western Conference. Despite being urged to return in a recently held players-only meeting, the All-Star forward decides to sit and told the team that he’ll only play once he feels 100 percent healthy. Leonard’s extended absence made some of his teammates frustrated, including Tony Parker who said that the quad injury he suffered was “a hundred times worse.”
Parker’s statements didn’t sound well for former Spurs forward Stephen Jackson. In an appearance on Fox Sports 1, Jackson slammed the veteran point guard and said that he wouldn’t be surprised if Kawhi Leonard demands a trade in the upcoming offseason.
“I know the type of person Tony is,” Jackson said, (h/t USA Today Sports). “He can be selfish. And by this comment, I wouldn’t be surprised if this makes Kawhi want to leave. When your teammates are going against you in the media like that, not having your back, and you know that’s coming from up top (in the organization), why would you want to be there?”
Jackson went as far as saying that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had a hand in the meeting, ordering his players to go after Kawhi Leonard. Popovich denied the claims and added that he didn’t know that such thing took place. However, it is hard to imagine Jackson making baseless accusations, knowing that he spent four seasons in San Antonio.
The departure of Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio is inevitable, especially if the Spurs fail to address the issue in the upcoming offseason. If Leonard won’t sign a massive extension this summer, it will be best for the Spurs to trade him than lose him in 2019 free agency without getting anything in return. Several NBA teams will surely make an attractive offer to Spurs once the All-Star forward becomes officially available on the trading block.
However, Popovich and the Spurs have already been in the same situation last summer involving another superstar. Like Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge was also involved in various trade rumors after he expressed his frustration with the team. Still, Popovich managed to fix the problem and help Aldridge return to his All-Star form.
Despite not having Leonard, the Spurs keep their playoff hopes alive, thanks to the outstanding performance of Aldridge, who’s currently averaging 23.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks on 50.9 percent shooting from the field. Aldridge suffered a bruised left knee on Tuesday night but still managed to return to help the Spurs beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 103-99, on Thursday night at AT&T Center.