NBA exec says Spurs ‘screwed up' with Kawhi Leonard, claims ‘San Antonio mafia is real'
Executive referred to Popovich as the 'Godfather'
Kawhi Leonard’s divorce from the Spurs will be discussed for years, and the latest article surrounding the Kawhi saga attempts to shed some light on the Spurs culture and what drove Leonard away.
Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report posted a lengthy article about Leonard’s return to the court this season after an injury-plagued year in San Antonio.
The article quotes an unnamed NBA executive who said Leonard’s status and injury should have never been questioned.
The executive said the Spurs “screwed up” with Leonard and went as far as saying “the San Antonio mafia” is real.
“When the Godfather (Popovich) speaks, they're coming for you. He's the nicest kid in the world and all of a sudden he's an evil villain? He's not an angry kid. He's a sweetheart," the executive told Bleacher Report.
Leonard for his part has not publicly said anything negative about the Spurs since he was traded to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan.
But the article dives into the Spurs organizational structure and how it doesn’t allow for much freedom on and off the court.
When asked about his bounce-back year and an opponent’s assessment that he appears to be more aggressive, and have more freedom with the Raptors offense, Leonard told Bleacher Report, "I look more aggressive? The offense is a little freer, but I guess people forgot just from one year (away). I used to take 17 to 18 shots and averaged 25 points."
Leonard was also asked about the differences in the coaching styles of Popovich and Raptors first-year head coach Nick Nurse. He said it does not compare, but acknowledged in the article the Raptors offense allows him more freedom.
“Coach Pop and Nick Nurse are totally different coaches. This is (Nurse’s) first year, so he's still learning on the fly," Leonard told Bleacher Report. "Obviously, coach Pop, being with the same organization for 22 years, so you really can't compare them. It's very different."
Leonard is once again performing at an MVP level after playing only nine games in his final season in San Antonio. He demanded a trade in the summer and was ultimately shipped to Toronto.
It remains to be seen if Leonard re-signs with the Raptors this offseason when he becomes a free agent.
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