Quitting on Kawhi ?
With Kawhi Leonard’s return to the court looking more and more unlikely, one could argue there is a rift brewing between Coach Pop and the superstar.
Leonard who has SLOWLY, fallen out of the game changer, yet alone franchise difference maker conversation, has all the sudden rapidly boarded the next player out of town conversation…as wild as that sounds.
Leonard, who had been shut down due to a quad injury for well over two months, has just been medically cleared to return to the floor…assuming he was either close to one- hundred percent, or capable of dealing with whatever remaining pain was left. While Coach Pop, teammates and Spurs fans were excited and optimistic towards Leonard’s return, Leonard himself was not so sure of a comeback, as he rightfully opted out of a 2018 comeback, causing this surface level rift theory.
I get it, he’s supposed to be the Spurs franchise hero, next face of the league and the league’s best two-way player and he’s choosing to shut it down. Okay, cool. Leonard is obviously looking out for himself as he should, but his time spent away from the team has only raised the question of do the Spurs really need Kawhi, or is he just the guy that gives the team an extra edge against opponents on both sides of the floor?
Generally speaking, you pose that question on just about anyone they’ll say “hell yea the Spurs need Kawhi!” They might back it up by saying he can score at will, can hold his own on defense and poses a threat to opponents in late game situations. That’s cool, and while pretty accurate, realistically, looking at the past ten games, the Spurs in fact do NOT need Kawhi but would like to have him in order to manage and stay afloat the west.
Looking back, the Spurs have only won four of their past ten games with losses to a currently sixth seeded 76ers team, and formidable Western Conference opponents in Denver, Utah, Houston and a blowout loss to Golden State; wins came against under 20 win teams in Phoenix, Sacramento and a league’s worst, Phoenix Suns team. Impressive? Not hardly. Surprising? I’d say so.
Now I’m not saying Leonard’s presence hasn’t been missed or that the Spurs would’ve just went 10-0 in that span, but I am saying the Spurs are doing just enough to get by despite a 4-6 standing as they are currently the NUMBER THREE SEED in the west, which may make Kawhi expendable after next season for more reliable future pieces.
Who am I to say Kawhi or any other athlete is selfish for looking out for themselves first? And without calling me a conspiracist, not only might Leonard be taking the extra time to get himself back to full strength, but weighing out his options, looking at the team from a spectators perspective as he is due for a big money contract after the 2018-19 season...and much like his counterpart LaMarcus Aldridge, may have come to terms that “the system,” one of which coach Popovich doesn’t change for any player, may not fit his career life plan.