The San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard are having one of the most surprising rifts and it’s led to some interesting theory and speculation.
Marc Stein wrote that many around the league are legitimately wondering whether or not this schism will lead to the front office trading their star player (via New York Times):
“Is this all building toward a showdown that winds up getting Leonard — who so many of us thought was the perfect Spur and a future MVP — traded in the off-season? These are the sorts of questions people around the league are asking about San Antonio, which hasn’t endured drama on this level since the early days of Duncan’s career.”
This would be a shocking development for a team led by Popovich, who has not faced even a similar level of drama in recent memory.
During a podcast appearance last month, Jared Zwerling said Leonard’s business manager Dennis Robertson had a “great conversation” with Spurs general manager RC Buford. Zwerling reported that Robertson said there is no issue between his client, who is also his nephew, and the organization.
He described the situation as one with no setbacks but no rush to get back on the court, either, which is in line with the latest news from Wojnarowski.
As the Spurs continue to play well, it’s clear that no one wants to see Leonard reinjure himself by playing again too soon. Since the report from Zwerling, a new development was added by league insider Andrew Sharp (via Sports Illustrated):
“Communication between the Spurs and their MVP candidate hasn’t been great, and even Popovich doesn’t seem to have many answers for what’s gone wrong or what comes next … A source from another team told me recently that the distance between Leonard and the Spurs is real, but the Spurs aren’t panicking. They’ll wait until he comes back before making any franchise-altering decisions, even if that means waiting until next September.”
Sharp believes that it would shock those around the league if Leonard returned by the postseason. According to his source, if the distance is real, perhaps a trade is not the worst idea.
It would be a huge plot twist for the franchise but if they don’t agree on a supermax contract extension, getting assets for him in exchange would help their roster development.
Tim Bontemps summarized exactly the trouble San Antonio is facing about whether or not it’s worth keeping Leonard (via Washington Post):
“San Antonio could lose one of the NBA’s best players for nothing. The other option is they could trade him. Even with just one year remaining on his deal, even with the injury issues he’s had this season, there would be teams lining up to take a risk on Leonard — and willing to part with significant assets to do so. Players like him don’t come along every day.”
This whole situation is unexpected but stranger things have happened in the league. If this means Leonard is no longer on the team by the offseason, it’d become one the biggest stories in the NBA.