The San Antonio Spurs rarely, if ever, make the headlines for head-scratching scenarios, but are in the midst of one with superstar Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard has played in just nine games this season due to a lingering right quadriceps injury that the team has known about since the early goings of training camp.
Last week head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters in San Antonio that he would be “surprised” if Leonard played again this season. This can be looked at as Popovich preparing his players for life without Leonard, just like the majority of the season.
Days later, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Leonard was returning to the team after being away
in New York for three weeks. Leonard went to New York to get a second opinion on his quadriceps, because he still wasn’t feeling comfortable playing, despite being cleared by team doctors.
Leonard will rehab at the Spurs practice facility, but will not immediately get into five-on-five action, according to Wojnarowski, but will ease into that and aim for a late-March return. The Spurs have six games in April before the playoffs begin. Will that be enough time for Leonard, should he feel comfortable? That’s a tall task, especially with the Warriors and Rockets to get through.
Comfortability will be the biggest key in whether or not Leonard returns to the Spurs this season. If Leonard feels comfortable enough to get back on the floor, that will be a big boost to the championship aspirations of the Spurs. If Leonard does not feel comfortable to return, then the Spurs will continue on without him, as they have most of the season.
San Antonio currently sits in third in the Western Conference standings with a record of 35-24. If someone told you that the Spurs would still be right in the thick of things towards the end of the season, despite not having Leonard for a bulk of it, you likely wouldn’t believe it to be true. Yet, here they are.
The entire scenario is making the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs dicey. This could spell big trouble for the future of the Spurs, as Leonard has one year left on his current deal and could become a free agent in the summer of 2019.
The Spurs acquired Leonard in 2011 NBA Draft from the Indiana Pacers, who took him 15th overall, for George Hill. This would be a move that solidified who would take the reins of the team once future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan decided to pass the torch and hang up the sneakers.
Leonard has been sensational for the Spurs during his career and helped them win an NBA title in 2014 and was named Finals MVP. Depending on who you ask, Leonard is a top 2-3 player in the world and that is some elite company with the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry among others. He is one of, if not the best two-way player in the league today. Many believed that Leonard would win the MVP award this season.
If the Spurs relationship with Leonard does not improve, his time in San Antonio could very well be dwindling away with questions of what could have been. Now, there is plenty of time for the two sides to get back on the same page, but the speculation swirls as each day passes.
Whether Leonard suits up for the Spurs again this season will solely be based on how comfortable he feels with his quadriceps injury. With his return, the Western Conference would get a lot more interesting and potentially make for some great playoff series.