The already twisted narrative between Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs continues to reach new heights. As if things between the two parties have not been strange, those levels of strangeness increased over the weekend.
Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich remains dumbfounded by the small forward’s health condition. Popovich discerns that Leonard is undergoing injury rehab on his right quad in New York. However, the situation revolving around the 2014 Finals MVP is still murky, to say the least.
According to reports from ESPN, Popovich recently addressed the media regarding the possibility of Leonard’s return. It would be an understatement to say that his answer was not the most promising for Spurs fans.
“I don’t know when he’s going to feel, he and his group are going to feel like they’re ready to go,” Popovich said Sunday before a game against Houston.
“If I knew, he’d be here. When he and his group feel he’s ready, he’ll be ready.”
Popovich’s words certainly suggest that the relationship between the organization and Leonard is rocky at best. The consistent uncertainty about the 6-foot-7 forward’s status is doing more harm than anything.
Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports points out that the “lack of communication” between Kawhi and the Spurs is concerning. It indicates that some degree of friction may be there.
Therefore, the problem seems to stem beyond there being no knowledge as to when a return could occur. Via Ward-Henninger, Kawhi’s quietness has put into question the integrity the Spurs are widely renowned for.
Moreover, it is worth considering Popovich’s reference of Leonard’s “group.” One could argue that the latter’s reliance on the group infers that he trusts them more than the Spurs’ medical experts.
Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News reminds readers that Kawhi has already been cleared to play. That being said, the fact that Kawhi’s personal group carries a different posture is rather curious.
Frustration is clearly palpable within the Spurs’ organization. It says a lot given that the team has not had too many personnel issues over the years.
The frustration is understandable provided what Bleacher Report’s Mike Chiari recently wrote. The Spurs’ two-time All-Star has participated in only nine games in 2017-2018. Chiari also reports that this marks the second time Leonard has consulted outside help. Despite that truth, team staff has gone to New York to gather what they can on Leonard.
Popovich is not the only one who appears confused by Leonard. Some of his teammates, including veteran point guard Tony Parker, have gotten tired of the drama.
During this past year’s playoffs, Parker sustained a quad injury just as Leonard did in the following series. However, FanSided’s Rob Wolkenbrod imparts a key point Parker made not too long back. Parker is on record saying that his quad injury was “100 times” more severe than Leonard’s.
It is crucial to bear in mind that Parker is a few years older than his counterpart. Accordingly, the sheer fact that Parker’s recovery time was much quicker is interesting.
Other factors Chiari alludes to (courtesy of ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski) validates the idea that the relationship between both parties is more than compromised. For example, he recalls a team meeting the Spurs held a couple weeks back. In the correspondence, Leonard’s teammates strongly asserted their need for him. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year said he was not ready to return at the time.
Without Leonard, San Antonio is by no means a powerhouse threat. It is astonishing that they are currently the fourth seed in the West due to Leonard’s lack of presence on the court. Be that as it may, the difference between them and the ninth seed is a mere three games.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Dane Carbaugh, the Spurs would surely be in a “better position” if Kawhi made it back to the team. He is undoubtedly one the best two-way players in the league when healthy.
It speaks wonders about the Spurs. While this season has been an anomaly by their standards, it is hard to call it an absolute failure. According to a different piece by Ward-Henninger, it is a “testament” to how well they are constructed.
“It’s a testament to the Spurs’ players, coaches and organization… San Antonio is looked at as a possible dark-horse championship contender if Kawhi is able to return, but without him it’s hard to imagine they’ll have enough firepower to compete with the star-laden teams atop the Western Conference.”
The last part is all that matters when it comes to Spurs. The Spurs are one of the few teams in the league every year that are expected to make it to the big dance. That makes the divide between Leonard and the Spurs all the more teeth-clenching. Without his presence, the odds of that happening are virtually impossible.
It is hard not to wonder at this point if Kawhi will ever don a Spurs uniform again. The two sides are clearly not on the same page, and that is not how the Spurs tend to operate. It leads Carbaugh to believe that Leonard and the team may not agree to a max contract. Leonard will be a free agent after the 2018-2019 campaign.
While anything is possible, it is extremely unlikely that Leonard will return to the team this season. Given that only five games remain, the element of time is running dangerously thin.