Report: Spurs ‘implored’ Kawhi Leonard to return in players-only meeting
San Antonio Spurs players implored Kawhi Leonard to return to the lineup during a players-only meeting over the weekend, per a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Leonard, a two-time first-team All-NBA player (2016, 2017) and NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2015, 2016), has been limited to only nine games this season due to a nagging quadriceps tendinopathy condition. Numerous reports indicating Leonard was about to rejoin the Spurs were thwarted, either by the team or because the superstar still required clearance from his own doctors and medical advisers.
It would certainly appear the frustration has mounted in the Spurs’ locker room and on Saturday following a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, it finally came to a head, per Woj’s reporting:
The conversation was described as tense and emotional at times, league sources said.
Several teammates spoke up, expressing frustration and confusion over a growing divide with Leonard that has created significant tension between the franchise star and the Spurs, league sources said.
Leonard, 26, was resolute in response, insisting that he had good reason for sitting out all but nine games with a right quad injury this season, league sources said.
The notion that Spurs players have had it over the uncertainty, delays and dashed hope over Leonard’s eagerly anticipated return should be hardly surprising. Caustic comments from Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili on the issue Wednesday made that abundantly clear and it would appear in hindsight that he was speaking on behalf of the entire team given this most recent report.
As it stands, with 10 games left in the regular season, the Spurs (42-30) are winners of five straight and occupy the sixth seed in the ultra-competitive and incredibly tight Western Conference standings. Popovich earlier this week reflected upon the “frustrating season” the Spurs have had to navigate, mostly due to Leonard’s prolonged absence.
That said, the Spurs are in prime position to qualify for the postseason for a staggering 21st consecutive year. And with each passing day, Leonard’s frustrating and excessively prolonged unavailability makes it all the more likely he will not contribute to the push.