SAN ANTONIO – A question long lingering in the minds of Spurs fans was answered Sunday in a Yahoo! Sports interview with Kawhi Leonard's uncle, Dennis Robertson.
Robertson told Yahoo! Sports that the three-time NBA All-Star requested to be traded from the San Antonio Spurs due to a degradation in trust between Leonard's camp and the franchise.
“They didn’t believe Kawhi couldn’t play, and that caused a lack of trust in us and then us not believing in them," Robertson told Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes. "Any time a player says he’s not capable of playing, you should believe him. Why would Kawhi just stop playing all of a sudden? He’s a competitor."
Uncle Dennis Speaks: Uncle of Raptors star Kawhi Leonard to Yahoo Sports on why they requested trade from Spurs, initial reluctance to go to Toronto, being vindicated, affection for city and free-agency process. https://t.co/gJrsSW4HRF— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) May 26, 2019
Leonard appeared in nine games in his final season with the Spurs as he recovered from quadriceps tendinopathy to his right leg.
Leonard was cleared by the Spurs' doctor and outside doctors, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported in February of 2018, but the two-time defensive player of the year elected to not play. Wojnarowski also reported the team had a “heated” and “emotional” players-only meeting with Leonard that centered around some of the frustrations the players had been feeling with Leonard’s status.
Leonard was also criticized for not sitting behind the bench during the 2017-18 playoffs to offer support to the team.
"Sometimes you get these team doctors telling you what you can and cannot do, and Kawhi was just in too much pain to get out there," Robertson told Yahoo! Sports. "This was a serious issue. They didn’t believe him, and after that, the relationship couldn’t recover and we decided we had to move on.”
In July 2018, the Spurs announced that Leonard and beloved Spur Danny Green had been traded to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round draft pick.
On Saturday, Green and Leonard became part of the Raptors' franchise history, winning the Eastern Conference finals and making the NBA Finals for the first time.
Robertson told Yahoo! Sports that Leonard's success with the Raptors has been described by many as vindication, but he's not ready to agree just yet.
"It feels good with what we went through last year," Robertson told Yahoo! Sports. "We have to be happy. He said it best with all the work he's put into his craft: He’s ready for this moment. What he accomplished was amazing. That’s what stars do.
"How he’s handled everything on and off the court is well deserved. It was nice to see him fight through all the adversity, and he’s earned every minute of this.”