San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and star player Kawhi Leonard are the focus of one of the most bizarre stories of the season.
Some think the injured Leonard remains absent because of his relationship with Popovich and recent quotes have only added fuel to this fire. When Popovich was asked when Leonard would return, Popovich dodged the question and said to ask the player’s group.
Others have speculated recent praise from the coach about LaMarcus Aldridge was indirectly a shot at Leonard. According to Ailene Voisin, sources close to Popovich believe that if the relationship “remains strained” between Leonard and the team then the star forward will be traded this offseason.
Tim Bontemps, however, added a new wrinkle to the story in a recent report (via Washington Post):
“But is a reconciliation even possible? The relationship between Popovich and Leonard, multiple sources say, remains strong. The fact Aldridge remains a Spur at all — after he was upset enough last summer to ask for a trade — lends credence to the argument that it is always too early to judge these things.”
This echoes what former San Antonio forward Sean Elliott said about Popovich and Leonard.
If the aforementioned report is correct, however, it’s certainly possible that Leonard, who has reportedly had “increasing tension levels” due to his big disconnect with the Spurs, remains in San Antonio once he is healthy.
Rachel Nichols recently discussed how the coach can solve this problem (via ESPN):
“This could get also get solved quickly and quietly. Remember, it was just last summer that Aldridge asked to be traded. Pop turned that situation around with some compromise and a bottle of Chianti. But at least as of right now, well, we’re not there yet.”
According to Marc Stein in his recent newsletter, a well-placed insider said the franchise is giving off signals that they won’t trade Leonard.
The Spurs are typically one of the most reliable organizations in the NBA. But this situation has become increasingly strange with every new that detail emerges.