Rumors have been flying about a possible conflict between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs organization after it was reported that Leonard has been medically cleared to play after sustaining a right quad injury, but would not return to the active roster. Before the All-Star break, Leonard traveled to New York to obtain a second opinion on his injury, and has chosen to opt out of returning to the rotation despite being given the green light. League sources have reported that Kawhi’s prolonged absence has put some strain on the once strong relationship he had with the Spurs organization, and Coach Gregg Popovich stated that he would be “surprised” to see Leonard return to the roster this season.
This unfortunate news has Spurs fans incensed that they could face the playoffs without their main man, and although they currently sit at 3rd place in the Western Conference, they’d be no match for the Warriors without Leonard. League sources have also reported that the uncertainty of the season coupled with a possible free-agency situation in for Leonard in 2019 has caused tension between the Spurs and Leonard as he weighs whether or not to return.
I'm only left to start wondering if Kawhi Leonard really was built to become the new leader of the San Antonio Spurs. Was the pressure too much? Was he just too injury prone? Would he be more comfortable as a co-star? Maybe.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) February 22, 2018
So is it really as bad as people are reporting? It seems as though everyone is very quick to escalate the situation to a non-redeemable failure. Sure, there may be tension–this league is all about winning. But, I have a hard time believing an organization that’s known for keeping players around for the entire duration of their NBA careers in a league where hirings, firings, and trades are all too common regularly overcomes disagreements with ease. In our culture of superficial relationships it’s easy to assume that conflict is a death sentence for a partnership, but those who have experience with long term business relationships understand that conflict is a part of day-to-day life, and a disagreement doesn’t have to mean the end. Let’s be real here, Leonard still drives the 1997 Chevy Tahoe he’s had since before he played in the NBA so I’m certain he’s not going to write off his relationship with the Spurs over some tension surrounding his injury.
From the moment Kawhi Leonard stepped foot in SA he’s embodied winning, sacrifice and growth, silently becoming one the best players on the planet. I will never understand how anyone can question this mans heart or dedication b/c he’s sitting, somethings not right here.
— Antonio Daniels (@adaniels33) February 22, 2018
Leonard is obviously still very uncomfortable about where he’s at physically, and perhaps he’s taking the proper time to heal vs rushing back to risk being hurt once again. As his teammate Manu Ginobili stated, “Nobody is in his body. He feels the way he feels, and we don’t know.” In the meantime, Coach Popp is taking the necessary precautions to prepare his team that they may have to enter the playoffs without Leonard stating that he’s being”honest and logical” about whether or not he will have Leonard at his disposal when the post season arrives.
The Warriors are a formidable opponent, and the Spurs only have a chance if Leonard is 100%. Leonard is a two-time first-team All-NBA selection, he’s twice been named the NBA’s defensive player of the year, and he secured the NBA Finals MVP in the 2014 championship series. It’s clear that he doesn’t yet feel ready to make a push, and while that may displease his fans, and some people in the Spurs’ front office, I’m certain they would rather let him return when he’s comfortable than send him packing to another team.