For the first time in his career, Tony Parker will not play for the San Antonio Spurs next season. The 36-year-old point guard has signed with the Charlotte Hornets.
Perhaps Parker’s presence away from the team could be enough to persuade Kawhi Leonard to play another season for the Spurs. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that Parker “quarterbacked” a player’s only meeting to implore Leonard to return to their lineup in March 2018.
After the meeting, Parker said his injury was 100 times worse than Leonard’s.
Wojnarowski said that the “last straw” for Leonard with the Spurs was when Parker spoke publicly about his injury. This was confirmed by ESPN’s Zach Lowe too.
Parker recently explained that he had “no problem” with Leonard, although the opposite may not be true. In a story recently published by Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, we learned that Leonard “remains irate” with the French point guard due to his public comments about the injury.
Now that Parker is no longer in the picture, could this pave the way for Leonard to return to San Antonio? It’s worth considering, especially knowing that it was Parker’s comments that upset Leonard the most.
Tim Bontemps has written that Leonard still had a strong relationship with head coach Gregg Popovich (via Washington Post):
“But is a reconciliation even possible? The relationship between Popovich and Leonard, multiple sources say, remains strong. The fact [LaMarcus] 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 losing Parker was all it took to potentially reshape Leonard’s perspective, it seems to be a worthwhile decision for both parties.
Parker will assuredly have a bigger role in Charlotte than he would have had in San Antonio. Meanwhile, the Spurs can try to smooth things over with Leonard instead of trading one of the best two-way players in the league.
It’s still unclear if Leonard would be willing to stay another year in San Antonio. While Parker’s comments clearly upset Leonard, there are bigger issues that need to be resolved. However, the Spurs managed to repair the relationship with Aldridge, who was disgruntled and wanted out of San Antonio, so anything seems possible.