By Griffin Finch
Last year in the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs lead by Kawhi Leonard were up 23 in game one on the juggernaut Golden State Warriors. Early in the third quarter, Leonard took a corner three and Zaza Pachulia undercut him as he landed causing Kawhi to suffer a quad injury that would force him to miss the remainder of the series as well as all but nine games this season. Kawhi has missed so much time that the relationship between Kawhi and the Spurs has begun to deteriorate.
Recently Leonard has made a change in his representation choosing to have his uncle represent him. Since this change it has looked as if head coach Gregg Popovich hasn’t been able to get in contact with Kawhi. Popovich has appeared to use players such as Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to organize team meetings with Kawhi asking him to return. He has even been using the media to send messages to his superstar. For example, when Gregg Popovich said in a post game press conference that if Kawhi did not return soon he would not be coming back at all. That was certainly a message to Leonard saying that if you intend to play this year you better do it soon. It seems clear that some within the Spurs organization do not believe that Kawhi is still injured, but remains off the court for some other reason of his own. This lack of trust between the two parties is driving a wedge between them that is causing what may be irreparable.
A lot of damage has already been done. So much so that trade rumors surrounding Kawhi Leonard have already begun to surface. Some NBA executives have said that the Los Angeles Lakers will pursue a trade for Kawhi this summer. The Clippers and Celtics have also reportedly shown interest in potentially trading for Leonard, but the Lakers seem the most likely because of their assets, their location, plus Kawhi Leonard grew up a Lakers fan and it would fulfill a dream for him to wear the purple and gold.
The former Defensive Player of the Year has been cleared for play by the the Spurs team doctors for a while. However, Kawhi has not been on the court helping his team to beat a Warriors team that right now look pretty vulnerable with all the injuries they’ve suffered. Leonard has opted to continue rehabbing his quad. This week he is in New York working with a team of his own doctors in the Players Association medical facilities. At this point any hope for the return of the 2014 Finals MVP are gone. San Antonio will likely be swept by the Warriors and will be left to hope that Kawhi will return for next season.