Image courtesy of Mark Runyon / Flickr
He became a star when he won NBA Finals MVP in the 2013-14 season and his stock has risen ever since; until Zaza Pachulia closed out a little too tightly on him.
Kawhi Leonard has recently caught a bad case of the injury-bug since game 1 of the Western Conference Finals last season. He was battling the ankle injury he suffered during that game, courtesy of Pachulia, and now he has been dealing with a quadriceps injury.
On January 17, 2018, Leonard was ruled out indefinitely with his quad injury after only participating in nine games for the San Antonio Spurs this year. Head coach Greg Popovich also chimed in on Leonards injury saying, ” I’ll be surprised if he gets back this year.” Still, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Leonard has reportedly been medically cleared to return from his quad injury.
Wojnarowski even pointed out in an article, that you can find here , that Leonard’s injury and his willingness to play through the injury has caused a rift between the organization and himself.
So, where does leave the Spurs? Who has any idea. This is one of the most peculiar handlings of an injury for a professional team. The last time I can remember an injury situation like this is when Derrick Rose was still in Chicago with the Bulls.
That Rose situation, along with his other injuries, soured his career to the point that at 29-years-old, the former MVP is out of the league.
I doubt the same thing will happen to Leonard, but I do believe that Leonard and the Spurs will part ways at some point in the future; whether that be via trade or free agency (2019-20).
Leonard not deciding to play for San Antonio right now while they sit fourth in the Western Conference speaks volumes. Surely anything close to his 25.5 points per game production from last season would help a Spurs offense that ranks 26th in the league in points a game.
Do the Spurs move on from him? Well, he has two years left on his deal, and he is still only 25-years-old with MVP potential on both ends of the floor, but, depending on how bad this situation is, they have to consider it.
Leonard will make around $41 million for the final two years of his contract which is a bargain considering who he is so, if the Spurs do move on they would definitely get a boatload of either picks and / or talented players.
Another thing the Spurs could do, if they move on from Leonard, is go after LeBron James in free agency.
I know what you’re thinking. “LeBron? No way. If he is leaving Cleveland he is going to Los Angeles.” I get that reasoning but you have to hear me out on this one. “King James” has played most of his career with a puppet of a head coach and an ownership group that most of the time looks like they have no idea what they are doing. While San Antonio has one of the best coaches in league history (whom James has a great relationship with) and a structured front-office that continues to create rosters capable of winning games. I mean for crying out loud the last time the Spurs had a losing season was 1996-97.
How could James not be enticed by this team? They have stability, talent (LaMarcus Aldridge, Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson to name a few) along with anyone LeBron could recruit, a good location, and a great head coach. Who says no? Well maybe James but then again I am just throwing stuff against the wall.
But, before the Spurs even think about James they have to decide what to do with Leonard. Is their relationship messed up beyond repair? Or is Leonard the heir to their dynasty that they thought he was when Tim Duncan started declining? I guess we will have to wait and see.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53 on Twitter)