After Kawhi Leonard repeatedly told the Spurs he’d play then didn’t, his teammates held a players-only meeting imploring him to play. Leonard stood his ground and said, despite his desire to return, he wouldn’t guarantee playing again that season.
That, piecing together a few reports, is what happened last March in San Antonio.
In the aftermath, a couple of his teammates shared harsh-sounding comments. Tony Parker, who had already returned to the lineup, said his quad injury was “100 times worse” than Leonard’s and went out of his way to say he never considered getting a second opinion from outside the Spurs. Manu Ginobili, via Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (hat tip: Zach Lowe of ESPN):
“It’s hard when you don’t practice with the team,” Ginobili said. “The bulk of the camaraderie is pregame postgame and halftimes, when you are going through some adversity or trouble, and he is not with us most of the time. It’s hard, and I have been in that situation. Not (as long as he has), but for a month, month and a half, and it’s hard. Sometimes you feel like an alien to the core group and you have to fight through it. You have to make an effort to still be around and be part of the everyday topics and the good things and the bad things. You have to make an effort.”
Was that players-only meeting a turning point? What was actually said in San Antonio’s locker room?
I had heard this, that Kawhi had said something about like, “I’ll do anything for all you guys in this room, but not this organization.”
Leonard has yet to speak publicly about what went wrong in San Antonio. Maybe he never will. So, we’re left examining clues.
I won’t dismiss the possibility that, if Leonard said this, it was because it’s hard to tell people to their faces that you have a problem with them. That’s likely even more true for the quiet Leonard.
But, at face value, this just points even more toward Spurs higher-ups – how they managed Leonard’s injury, treated him given his star status, handled his contract in 2014 and handled his contract this year. That’s not say San Antonio was wrong on these issues, but this is more evidence those were important to Leonard.