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NBA Daily: Are The Spurs And Leonard Headed Toward Divorce?

The San Antonio Spurs and Kawhai Leonard aren’t at an impasse, but they clearly have issues to work through.

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Not Broken, Just Hurt

There has been much said about the situation and relationship between the San Antonio Spurs and their injured star Kawhi Leonard. Before we get too far into this, someone once said there are three versions of every story – your version, my version and the truth.

That’s not to suggest that anyone’s reporting on the situation is wrong or inaccurate, rather that no one really knows what’s real in all of this, including a lot of the decisions makers in San Antonio, so lets dig in.

He’s Hurt. It’s That Simple

Leonard was diagnosed back in September with a thigh injury that was later termed quadriceps tendinopathy. It’s important to note that tendinopathy, is sort of a catch-all phrase related to a wide range of tendon-related issues. The problem for Leonard is it hurts, and it never seemed to go away, and it impacted his ability to play.

The Spurs medical staff put Leonard on a program, and everyone seemed to think he’d be fine. The problem is while he did return to action, the pain never went away. That became concerning to the point where both Leonard and the Spurs opted to shut him back down to try and get him right. That’s where the frustrations have set in; the Spurs doctors have medically cleared him. However, he is reluctant to take the court because of continued discomfort.

Leonard has sought second and third opinions, and that’s created something of a rift in an organization that isn’t used to players doing their own thing, especially with injuries.

Bad Communication

Much has been said and written about the iciness of the relationship, but sources near the situation said recently that most of it is simply a lack of clear communication. Anyone that’s spent anytime around Leonard will tell you he’s not exactly the most open communicator, and given that he’s been struggling with how to get right, it’s only gotten worse.

The Spurs have been fairly open with Leonard’s camp, according to sources, expressing a willingness to let this take its course, but that hasn’t changed the frustrations over a season that hinges on Leonard getting back on the court and into a rhythm with his team.

As much as this seems like a real story, most around the situation found the idea of an unrepairable rift with the Spurs and Leonard a little laughable. The source did concede that it’s going to be important for them to talk things out at some point when there isn’t the day-to-day pressure of the NBA season.

Both Sides Are Frustrated

There is no question that both sides of the scenario are frustrated. Leonard desperately wants to play and put this behind him, but he is in pain when he does and is trying to figure out how to get right.

The Spurs need Leonard on the court to have any real shot at a postseason run.

There is a frustration for sure, but both sides want the same thing – for Leonard to get right and return to the All-star form they have come to expect.

Some of this is simply awkward communication, but some of this is the pressure to win.

It’s Not the End, Not Yet

Like sharks that smell blood in the water, there has been no shortage of speculative questions about the future of Leonard and the Spurs.

Leonard has the option to be a free agent in 2019, and there is no question some of the approaches to this injury has something to do with the desire for a major new contract next summer. Leonard becomes extension-eligible this summer and qualifies for the new Collective Bargaining Agreements super max Designated Veteran Contract, which could be worth more than $250 million.

While it’s not out of the question the Spurs explore their options, the prevailing thought out of San Antonio is that Leonard isn’t going to be made available in trade talks at any point, but that doesn’t mean much with Leonard headed towards unrestricted free agency.

League sources pegged the Spurs situation similar to the LaMarcus Aldridge situation this past summer. Aldridge and head coach Gregg Popovich were at odds for most of the season, which resulted in the two sitting down and hashing it out to the point that Aldridge signed a new deal with the Spurs and is having arguably one of his best seasons as a pro.

As much as people want to make the Leonard situation into something it’s not, at least not yet. Most believe Popovich and Leonard will sit down in the offseason and reach a new mega-deal to lock Leonard in to San Antonio.

If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, then it’s safe to speculate because all bets would be off, but that has to happen first.

For now, the Spurs and Leonard want the same things – they want Leonard to get right and get on the floor. Once that happens, the noise around this likely dies off.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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