Rumor: No question there is disconnect between Spurs and Kawhi Leonard
During Friday’s episode of The Woj Pod, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne laid out the reasons why there could be a rift forming between the San Antonio Spurs and their star forward Kawhi Leonard.
As most hoops fans know, Leonard, 26, has been out of commission for most of this season due to an injury (right quad tendinopathy). In fact, he’s played in just nine games this season, averaging 16.2 points on 46.8 percent shooting from the field (31.4 percent from beyond the arc), 4.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists.
According to most reports, Leonard has been cleared to play. However, the former 15th overall pick (2011) has elected to remain in recovery.
“We only have X number of games left in the season, and he’s still not ready to go,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told ESPN during Wednesday’s media availability, referring to Leonard. “If by some chance he is (ready to play), it’s gonna be pretty late into the season. I’ll be surprised if he gets back this year.”
In his podcast, Wojnarowski noted that coach Popovich seemed to be directing his “X number of games left” message towards Leonard.
“It was described to me by people who know (coach) Pop very well that they felt he was speaking to an audience of one — that he was speaking directly to Kawhi,” Wojnarowski said.
“It has been a private frustration (in San Antonio),” Wojnarowski continued. “I thought it was the first day that you could see it. If (Kawhi) doesn’t come back and play this year — or if he comes back in a very limited way — he’ll be a year away from free agency, and I think his future is going to have to be addressed there.”
“I think the question people are wondering is: Does he want to be there? Does he want to play there?” Wojnarowski noted.
By nature, Leonard is (and always has been) a quiet guy. He could certainly clear all of this up with a statement, but he hasn’t spoken publicly since Jan. 13, which was after his last game played with the Spurs. The two-time All-Star hinted that he needed to “string together a few games before feeling right,” but for whatever reason, the team decided to shut him down.
Although Leonard has been sidelined for most of this season, the Spurs have played well. In fact, San Antonio is currently ranked 2nd in the Southwest Division (3rd in Western Conference) with a 36-25 overall record.
Without question, Leonard has played a key role in San Antonio’s success in recent seasons. Whether or not he’ll return to action this season remains to be seen.