San Antonio Spurs superstar forward Kawhi Leonard has missed all but 9 games this season due to a right quadriceps injury. Despite Leonard’s absence, the Spurs have still managed to stay in contention in the Western Conference. San Antonio sits at 30-18, which is tied for the third-best record in the West.
Not bad for a team that has been missing its franchise player for more than 80 percent of its games. However, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright, it isn’t all rainbow and sunshine in the land of the 5-time champion San Antonio Spurs. The two have reported that Leonard is “distant” and “disconnected” from the organization. However, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford has denied this report from ESPN.
“There is no issue between the Spurs organization and Kawhi,” Buford claimed.
The rift between the Spurs and Leonard seems to be because of his rehab process. Buford went into detail about how difficult Leonard’s rehab has been.
“It’s been difficult for Kawhi. He’s an elite-level player. It’s been difficult for the team, because they want to play with a great teammate. And it’s been difficult for our staff. Historically we’ve been able to successfully manage injuries. This rehab hasn’t been simple, and it hasn’t gone in a linear fashion,” said Buford.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne called this feud the “worst kept secret in the NBA” on an ESPN daytime television show, The Jump.
Without Leonard, the Spurs have been able to survive, but it is not sustainable. A team led by 35-year-old Tony Parker, 40-year-old Manu Ginobili, and 37-year-old Pau Gasol will not be able to maintain this pace in the playoffs. Granted, LaMarcus Aldridge has had a bounce-back season, leading the Spurs in points and rebounds per game. But even so, the Spurs will not be able to compete in a playoff series without Leonard.
Leonard is under contract until at least the end of next season, when he has a player option. If the “disconnect” between the Spurs and Leonard is legitimate, the Spurs may have to consider moving on from their franchise forward. Letting a superstar walk for nothing is devastating for a franchise. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers about when LeBron James left for Miami (or perhaps ask the Heat how it felt when James went back to Cleveland). A team without a superstar is almost certain to dwell in the abyss that is mediocrity in the NBA.
The San Antonio Spurs have enjoyed incredible success, winning more than 50 games every year since the 1998-99 season.
Could the end of the Spurs’ dynasty finally be upon us?
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