The handling of Kawhi Leonard’s quad injury is most often cited as the reason for the breakdown in his relationship with the Spurs. However, a 2014 Kawhi Leonard injury may have kicked off the concerns that led to this morning’s trade.
ESPN‘s Michael C. Wright filed a piece about the Kawhi-Spurs divorce this morning. In it, he outlines many of the things that are believed to have caused a rift between the star forward and franchise.
Most of them are from this season, as you’d expect. We know about the quad injury, and some of the comments made by Gregg Popovich and veteran Spurs players.
Back in late 2014, Leonard suffered a wrist injury, which Gregg Popovich called “very problematic” at the time. It required injections, after not healing as anticipated. Ultimately, Leonard missed 15 games with the injury.
According to Wright, that earlier Kawhi Leonard injury may have been the first crack in the relationship with the Spurs.
From his piece:
Despite being eligible to receive a five-year super max extension this summer worth $221 million from the Spurs, Leonard wanted out of San Antonio for myriad reasons. He felt betrayed by the team for the handling of the quadriceps injury that kept him out of all but nine games last season — plus, Leonard’s camp believes the Spurs misdiagnosed a 2014 wrist injury as well — and also for the resistance encountered from the franchise when seeking outside opinions. Not to mention what seemed to be public questioning of the situation by members of the organization, with sources saying the forward had been medically cleared to play since December.
If Kawhi thinks that the team has misdiagnosed injuries on two different occasions in the last four seasons, it is understandable that he might want to move on, even given the money he’s leaving on the table and the success the two sides have shared.
His handling of his new situation in Toronto will be very telling. There’s some thought that he could try and sit out the year, which could have an incredibly bad impact on his reputation.
If he plays, Toronto becomes one of the most intriguing teams in the Eastern Conference, and a real threat to the Boston Celtics.
Even in mid-July, the NBA remains unbelievably intriguing.