The oddest saga in the NBA continues.
Kawhi Leonard‘s injury woes continue to be the source of much speculation, not just for San Antonio Spurs fans but around the league. The former NBA Finals MVP did not travel with the team to Oakland as the Spurs started their first round playoff series with the Golden State Warriors.
Leonard was medically cleared to play by the San Antonio training staff back in February, but has not returned to the floor. In the past months, we’ve seen quotes out of Texas that indicate Leonard’s medical team still isn’t convinced he’s ready to play.
Now, it looks like Leonard will miss the remainder of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.
According to a report from Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania, Leonard is still rehabbing his quadriceps but won’t make it back before the end of the season.
The Spurs lost Game 1 to the Warriors on Saturday, 113-92, and reporters continued to pepper San Antonio staff and players with questions about Leonard. Coach Gregg Popovich said that he could not offer more information on Leonard, and that any updates would have to be obtained via Leonard or “his group”.
Meanwhile, Spurs big man Pau Gasol said Leonard is rehabbing at his own pace, “with his own people.”
That’s not good news for the Spurs, and not just because they looked completely shorthanded against the Warriors, a team that is still missing Stephen Curry. We’ve seen talk of teams wanting to go after Leonard this summer if San Antonio feels like a split is necessary, but after everything the logical choice still points us toward things settling with the most stable franchise in the NBA.
Now, with Leonard not even traveling with the team to their playoff games, this feels like a rift. The regular season is played — especially in Bexar county — for April, May, and June. That Leonard isn’t with his teammates and is unlikely to play this year creates a permeating tension that has begun to feel insurmountable.
This is especially worrying as we got word of yet another team that might be interested in trading for Leonard. According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, the Los Angeles Clippers are circling and waiting to make their move for a trade package centered around Leonard.
Leonard is certainly a max-caliber player, but according to San Antonio Express-News’ Jabari Young, there’s some worry that the Spurs won’t offer him the contract he desires this summer.
Some league executives believe the Spurs will receive plenty of phone calls about Leonard’s status this offseason, with the feeling the team will not offer a five-year, $219 million extension, but yet part ways with Leonard.
“It would be a mistake,” one Western Conference league executive told the Express-News when asked about the possibility of the Spurs trading Leonard.
At this point, any conclusion in either direction between the Spurs and Leonard would feel incredible. The ability to salvage the relationship, at least from the exterior, would be wild (although you could see how $219 million would heal some wounds). Meanwhile, the thought of San Antonio pushing the eject button on Leonard is still so alien I’m not sure I’ll believe it if and when it happens.
What a bummer for everyone in San Antonio.