Kawhi Leonard rift with San Antonio started due to ‘secrecy’ while exploring 2nd opinion on quad injury
The breakup between the San Antonio Spurs and their former talisman Kawhi Leonard was one of the most bizarre sagas the NBA has encountered in the last decade. After a year of havoc, Leonard’s nine regular season games was all the Spurs had to show for before trading him away to the Toronto Raptors, as irreconcilable differences became too much for both sides to overcome.
Spurs beat writer Jeff McDonald provided some insight as to where the rift occurred and what ignited a nasty divorce between the Spurs and their 2015 Finals MVP during a visit with Chris Mannix of the Yahoo Sports NBA podcast.
“Everyone makes a big deal about him getting a second opinion — the Spurs were fine with that, it’s in the CBA that that’s his right,” said McDonald. “The Spurs even had to pay for that. Pay for him to go to New York and had his New York doctors find out what is wrong with him. It was really the secrecy about that rehab in New York that started to make the Spurs wonder if something weird is going on here. They had some of their people out there [in New York] helping with the on-court stuff, but they weren’t really getting all the medical information they thought they needed.”
New @YahooSportsNBA Pod: @TheFrankIsola on the Knicks offseason, expectations for David Fizdale, @FrankLikina's development; @JMcDonald_SAEN on the Kawhi trade, how @DeMar_DeRozan fits in, future of Gregg Popovich.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) September 11, 2018
Throughout the entire saga, the media has gotten nothing at all from Leonard’s mouth, as most theories and evaluations have come from analysis of the Spurs’ statements of the likes of coach Gregg Popovich, general manager R.C. Buford, and the few members of the staff willing to go on the record — making this a matter tough to assess until it’s Kawhi Leonard’s time to speak — something that likely won’t bring very much clarity either way.
“You hear of people being mad about Gregg Popovich’s reference about his ‘group’ — some of that stuff that was coming from the Spurs side in back channels,” said McDonald. “The Spurs were like ‘we’ve done everything possible to accommodate this group, these people, to accommodate Kawhi and try to get him healthy, to let him do everything he felt he needed to do. They kind of felt like they bent over backwards for him and there was sort of a suspicion that Kawhi’s group was just using the whole episode as a means to sort of grease the skids out of town.”
McDonald, who writes for the San Antonio Express-News, noted this wasn’t by any means the final account on this issue, though he did provide a much clearer picture of the rather murky interaction between Leonard’s camp and the Spurs, also noting the theory of Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson, trying to build his own agency by moving his No. 1 client to a bigger market like New York or L.A.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know and there’s still a lot of he said, she said kind of stuff going around that thing,” McDonald concluded.
The Spurs now boast a nearly revamped team with no Tony Parker, no Manu Ginobili, no Danny Green, and no Leonard heading into a murderer’s row that is the Western Conference.
While we might never truly get all the answers as to what sparked this devastating divorce, it would surely make a 30 for 30 worth watching whenever Kawhi Leonard’s career comes to a close.