If losing to the Golden State Warriors 3-1 in the first round playoff series wasn’t enough the San Antonio Spurs may have to face an off-season issue without all-star small forward Kawhi Leonard.
Drama in San Antonio is strange for their experienced front office, where General Manager RC Buford has enjoyed healthy relationships with star players such as David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker for two decades. But as long as the Kawhi Leonard rumors persist, a drama will slowly unfold for the Texan team like a homemade, messy, taco.
Rumor mills started churning immediately following Spurs elimination from the 2018 playoffs at the end of April. Reporters who asked about Kawhi Leonard were given the cold shoulder and short answers.
We paid no mind to his preseason rehabilitation
Back in September when Leonard was seated on the Spurs bench in street clothes we all assumed he was rehabilitating his right quadriceps injury under the watchful eye of the Spurs medical staff.
So the undermanned Spurs made it through preseason and expected their small forward back once NBA season games heated up in October, to assume his position as the Spurs leading scorer. Wrong.
Kawhi Leonard missed the first twenty-seven games, returned to play in December 2017, appeared in nine games, and subsequently missed the remainder of the season.
San Antonio Spurs respected head coach Greg Popovich brushed off reporters when asked about Leonard and even compared his injury to point guard teammate Tony Parker’s saying, “What’s really strange is that Tony Parker has the same injury, but even worse.” The smaller Parker tore his left quadriceps in the playoffs and returned to the Spurs in six months.
Rumors persisted after Leonard was called to a player-only meeting in a San Antonio Spurs locker room that ended in loud voices and arguments which was overheard by reporters covering the game.
NBA fans, old scribes like myself, and other unknown NBA media await something solid in this San Antonio standoff but no victory is in sight. The winner will not emerge without pain and the only sure thing is this dilemma with Kawhi Leonard NBA resume.
Drafted 15th in 2011, Kawhi was named as a first team all rookies, two times All Star, twice selected to All NBA first team honors, two time NBA Defensive player award and capping off as a 2014 NBA Finals MVP. With the latter, he joined basketball legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan as the only players to win both NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Finals MVP trophy in the same year.
Kawhi Leonard can return to the San Antonio Spurs next season but it is very unlikely according to NBA sources. This may turn out to be a 200 million dollar problem for Kawhi Leonard who’s expected to receive a maximum contract. Both sides of this basketball spectrum can be affected by this issue.
Leonard will certainly get max money by resigning from San Antonio but will he decide to lose 50 million dollars by taking his talents elsewhere in the NBA? On the flip side, can San Antonio afford to lose a twenty seven year old All-Star forward who their fans want to see in a grey and black uniform?
This drama has turned out to be the biggest NBA story in Texas, overshadowing the Houston Rockets bearded star James Harden and their playoff run in 2018.
Spurs’ dynamic duo, General Manager RC Buford and Head Coach Greg Popovich have put out fires earlier this season, with star center LeMarcus Aldridge, so it remains to be seen if their experience can pull another rabbit out the hat by signing Kawhi Leonard to a long term contract extension.
What if a small communication issue between Leonard and his San Antonio employer has been blown out of proportion all season? Some say Kawhi wants to leave San Antonio? Is it true San Antonio doesn’t want him anymore? Others claim his teammates have deserted him…
San Antonio Spurs front office vs Kawhi Leonard took on a life of its own teaching us all that funny things can happen when a star player is on an injured reserve list all season and without facts we’re all subject to educated guesses, overzealous reporting, and the world famous NBA free agent rumor mills.
So believe what you want to believe concerning Kawhi Leonard free agency.
I’m sticking to what Chuck D would say on Public Enemy songs: “Don’t believe the hype.”