Kawhi Leonard listening to his own medical team. And himself.
Earlier this season the Spurs medical staff cleared him to play after dealing with a sore quadriceps tendon since before the season. Leonard played in nine games and had pain, so he went and got a second opinion from specialists in New York. Those doctors said “No, there’s something else there” and Leonard has been off the court and back in rehab since. It’s understandable why Leonard trusts his own people, he knows his body.
Leonard is away from the Spurs again working on rehab for his knee, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright of ESPN.
For the second time this season, San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard has traveled to New York to continue rehabilitation for his lingering right quad injury under the supervision of outside medical personnel, league sources told ESPN.
Leonard has been in New York since Monday, and there’s no timetable set on a possible return to San Antonio, sources said.
Spurs staff is with Leonard monitoring his progress and working with him.
Two thoughts come out of this. First, at this point it seems highly unlikely that Leonard is back with the Spurs for the playoffs, and that means their run could be short. The Spurs are currently the four seed in the West at 44-32, but just one game separates them at four and the Pelicans at eighth in the West (teams 5-8 are just one game back in the loss column). Without Leonard as a defender and shot creator, the Spurs could run into real trouble against an athletic team in the first round such as Oklahoma City, or any of the top three (Houston, Golden State, or Portland). Without Leonard the Spurs are good, but they don’t strike fear into the hearts of potential playoff opponents.
Second, and more importantly, does this change the Spurs plans to offer Leonard a designated player max contract this summer? That’s the $200 million-plus deal that most recently James Harden and Russell Westbrook signed to stay in Houston and Oklahoma City, respectively? The Spurs almost certainly still offer it unless they have reason to believe that what is ailing Leonard will continue to linger beyond this season and into future years. Healthy, Leonard is unquestionably worth it, an MVP level player who is already a Finals MVP. However, if the Spurs have questions, would they wait to put to offer on the table until he’s back in training camp and looking healthy? And how would Leonard react to that delay?
Just something to watch, and a little more drama for the usually drama-free Spurs.