ESPN report dives deep into tension between Kawhi Leonard, Spurs, concerns about him leaving

Spurs concerned Leonard's inner-circle steering him to larger market

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

SAN ANTONIO – There may be a few more answers and clarity to the Kawhi Leonard saga that loomed over the Spurs’ regular season and playoffs.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright published a report on Tuesday that dives deeper into the tension between Leonard and the only professional organization he has ever played for.

Leonard played in only nine games this season for San Antonio due to a quadriceps injury, and did not play in San Antonio’s first round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.

The report details Leonard’s lengthy rehabilitation and says Leonard began to have issues with his quadriceps dating to the end of the 2017 season.

It alludes to conflicting treatment plans by the Spurs medical staff and Leonard’s medical team.

Leonard initially listened to Spurs doctors over the summer, but sought a second opinion when he continued to feel discomfort in August, the report said.

Leonard returned in December on a game and minutes restriction. The recovery did not go as planned and Leonard was temporarily shut down a month later.

Leonard then began to see New York orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jonathan Glashow, who has been leading Leonard’s rehabilitation plan ever since.

It was during this time that ESPN first reported about the tension between Leonard and the organization.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich dismissed those reports as Leonard later traveled to the New York area in February during the All-Star break to continue to seek treatment.

After the break, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said he would be surprised if he saw Leonard play for remainder of the season.

That set off a firestorm of reports about Leonard’s status with the team.

Leonard spoke to the media on March 7 and said he wanted to remain with the Spurs and was working to get back onto the court. He said he spoke to Popovich often and every decision was made with the consultation of the organization.

Two weeks later, ESPN 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 explained his reasoning for not returning, but the meeting reportedly caught him off-guard.

Spurs forward Rudy Gay told KSAT 12 the meeting was just a discussion and family business.

Danny Green said details of the report were inaccurate, but the meeting did take place.

The Spurs home game on March 21 against Washington was the last that Leonard was publicly seen around the team before he returned to New York. The Spurs took their annual team photo that day as well with Leonard.

Since then, multiple trade reports have surfaced with teams ready to pounce if the Spurs and Leonard’s relationship can not be repaired.

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Tuesday’s ESPN article said the Spurs are concerned the people in Leonard’s inner-circle, one being his uncle Dennis Robertson, want to steer him to a larger market.

The report added that people close to Leonard say he has been alienated by the team and organization.

Leonard was heavily criticized for not sitting behind the bench during the playoffs to offer support to the team.

ESPN reported Leonard intended to return after the April 18 death of Erin Popovich, the wife of Gregg Popovich.

Popovich did not coach the Spurs final three playoff games and Leonard stayed in New York, but the report gives some indication Leonard hasn’t fully detached from the team.

Popovich and Leonard are expected to meet this summer to discuss plans moving forward, with one of the key issues being whether the Spurs offer Leonard the supermax contract worth $219 million over five years.

Before this season, that seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

Now it’s not so clear as are many other things regarding Leonard, but at least now, ESPN has shared insight into a situation that has been mostly played behind closed doors.

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