San Antonio Spurs: Gregg Popovich reacts to the Kawhi Leonard report
By Rob Wolkenbrod
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had plenty to say about the ESPN report on Kawhi Leonard.
In a rare instance, the San Antonio Spurs were involved in controversy. An ESPN.com report documented a “distant” and “disconnected” relationship between Kawhi Leonard and the organization, noting disagreement on his rehab and playing time. Leonard has missed most of the 2017-18 season, with quad and shoulder injuries, resulting in him playing just nine games.
In the ESPN piece, Spurs General Manager RC Buford refuted the report. Leonard’s uncle did the same, separately.
After Tuesday’s win vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers, head coach Gregg Popovich spoke to the media about the situation. Via ESPN’s Michael C. Wright, Popovich questioned why this was called a “soap opera” and noted the slow process of Leonard’s rehab:
“I don’t even know why you say it’s a soap opera,” Popovich said. “Some people wrote some articles. I understand it, but soap opera? It’s a soap opera if we talk about it every day, I guess. I don’t get it. We won’t talk about it. There’s nothing to talk about other than what we’ve already said.
“The rehab is going slower than we expected. We wish it were going more quickly. If we’re going to err, as we have in the past, we’re going to do it on the conservative side. We kept Timmy Duncan out of the playoffs one year because of a knee, and he could have played. So I don’t see this as anything different than we’ve done with any other player. But some people for some reason want to do that. That’s OK. But that doesn’t affect my team or me or anybody else.”
Popovich’s comments lean back on Buford’s refuting, along with the cautious approach they have taken on Leonard’s recovery from an injury that occurred before the 2017 preseason. The Spurs never revealed how serious this ailment was or when it happened.
Whether it’s a “soap opera” or not, the Spurs never get involved in these public situations over a player’s discontent, whether it’s true or not. The LaMarcus Aldridge conflict turned out to be true, but that was resolved after Popovich had the famous “heart-to-heart” conversation with the now six-time All-Star.
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As for what’s next, the Spurs already began to move on, with Tuesday’s win over the Cavaliers as a step in the right direction. Once Leonard gets onto the court, if that happens this season, it will potentially put these rumors to the side and let the Silver and Black focus on the path to the playoffs, whether the disconnection between the two sides remains true or not.