ESPN reported Tuesday that Kawhi Leonard feels “distant” and “disconnected” from the San Antonio Spurs organization. This coming after months of disagreements on the treatment, rehabilitation and timetables for return from a right quad injury that has kept Leonard out of the lineup for all but nine games this season.
In an interview, Spurs GM RC Buford denied that there is a tension in the organizations relationship with Leonard.”From day 1 all parties have worked together to find the best solutions to his injury,” said Buford.
Buford went on to describe the hindering process of rehabilitation for the illusory solutions for his right quadriceps.
“It’s been difficult for Kawhi. He’s an elite-level player. This rehab hasn’t been simple, and it hasn’t gone in a linear fashion.”
The 26 year-old was sent back to San Antonio in the midst of a northeastern road trip, and to continue the rehab process; he was also shut down indefinitely.
“We sought outside expertise with the best tendon experts in the world,” Buford explained. “It worked beautifully for Tony [Parker], but it hasn’t worked the same for Kawhi.”
Coach Gregg Popovich is kind of shrugging this off and had this to say, “The rehab is going slower than we expected. We wish it were going more quickly. If we’re going to err, as we have in the past, we’re going to do it on the conservative side. We kept Timmy Duncan out of the playoffs one year because of a knee, and he could have played. So I don’t see this as anything different than we’ve done with any other player…”
Pop is know to rest superstars frequently, as he mentioned he did with Tim Duncan, so it’s no surprise that he wants Kawhi at 100% before he returns.
ESPN analyst Jalen Rose believes that Leonard wants OUT of San Antonio because no other superstars want to play for the spurs organization on “First Take.”
In July 2015, Leonard signed a 5 year $94.3 million with an option for 2019, so, unless traded, which doesn’t seem likely, he’ll have to finish next season in San Antonio and then opt of his deal.
Would Leonard end up in one of the “big market” teams that Rose mentions, who knows? If Kawhi really wants to leave San Antonio is, for the most part, unclear. But, if I’m RC Buford or Greg Popovich, I’d go out this coming offseason and try to reel a big name free agent like Russell Westbrook or DeAndre Jordan.