Tony Parker‘s comment that his quadriceps tendon injury was “100 times worse” than Kawhi Leonard‘s reportedly was one of the things that really poisoned the relationship between the superstar wing and the Spurs. As the Spurs note, if you bother to watch the full context of the comments, Parker said “stay positive, just stay positive, it was a rehab for me too for eight months” and the comments can be read as bitter so much as encouraging and advice on how to deal with long-term injury rehabilitation.
How the comments are perceived speak to how people want to see them — and with the advisors to Leonard trying to push him out of San Antonio to a larger market, this was a chance to widen the gap between Leonard the Spurs. It worked.
Parker, now a member of the Charlotte Hornets, said he always wanted to play Leonard and things were spun in a way not intended, as Parker told Marc Spears of ESPN.
The Spurs/Kawhi relationship coming apart is complex and nuanced — like the dissolution of any relationship part of the fault lies with both camps.
Leonard’s camp has tried to paint one of the most player-friendly franchises in the NBA — one that from rehab through player rest has always put player health first — as just the opposite of that, as controlling and pushy. It speaks to his management’s inexperience dealing with NBA franchises (or any professional sports organizations). On the flip side, the Spurs admit they could have handled this better, Parker’s comments and other steps by the players to meet with Leonard were part of that, and the Spurs still want to try to repair the relationship (which seems too far gone to fix now).
Parker moving on seems the ultimate sign that this era of the Spurs — which led to five titles and an unprecedented run of 50-win seasons — has come to an end. History needs to give this run its due.