Despite rumors surrounding Kawhi Leonard, the San Antonio Spurs might be the NBA’s hottest team.
“Turmoil,” “dissension,” and “problems” are often words associated with the San Antonio Spurs, at least over the past two months. It’s due to Kawhi Leonard’s rumored relationship with the organization, which seems to vary by the week.
The ESPN latest report highlighted an “emotional” and “tense” players-only meeting, to discuss Leonard’s status and when he could return. The San Antonio Express-News countered this, with the meeting being far from “emotional” or “tense,” but something led by veterans who wanted to hear from the player, not the media.
Players, including Danny Green, replied to the report on Twitter:
Couldn’t be anymore incorrect lol https://t.co/xo4yVyOvn2
— Danny Green (@DGreen_14) March 22, 2018
Head coach Gregg Popovich weighed in on the situation, according to ESPN, and did not place any blame on his star player. However, he said it’s “frustrating” because everyone wants Leonard back, including the injured player himself.
“I only talk about the things that I know, and I know he’s worked hard to get back. It’s been frustrating. You don’t think he wants to come back? You don’t think we want him back? But the fact that he’s not back, it frustrates everybody for all the obvious reasons. But there’s no blame to be placed, on him or anybody else.”
The season continues to wind down, and, at some point, Leonard just might not return until 2018-19. Nine games remain, all of which will see the Spurs fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Amidst this turmoil, though, let’s not forget the team this team has gone on these past two weeks.
Entering the Mar. 13 game against the Orlando Magic, the Spurs were at No. 10 in the West. It marked the lowest point of their disastrous post All-Star break run, while the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz surged up the standings. This, for the first time in 21 years, had everyone thinking the Silver and Black would not make the postseason and enter the NBA Draft Lottery. Not a guaranteed thing to happen, but there was a greater chance than ever, given how close to the season’s end it was.
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Since then, and while the Leonard rumors continue to pour onto the internet, San Antonio looks like one of the NBA’s hottest teams. That’s with six consecutive wins — one shy of the Houston Rockets — and a rise to No. 6 in the West; they are tied with the Pelicans for No. 5 and sit just 1.5 games back of No. 3 Portland.
Some wins came against potential playoff teams, the Pelicans and Jazz. One had some luck behind it, since Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson did not play for the Golden State Warriors Monday. Draymond Green even left due to injury. It’s hard to argue with that, though, since San Antonio did not defeat Golden State in their previous matchups this season.
So, after a 3-6 run to start the second half of games, the Spurs might return to the spot they held for most of the first part of the season. Even if that does not happen and they lose a few games, it’s still three and 4.5 games ahead of the No. 9 Nuggets and No. 10 Los Angeles Clippers, respectively. Unless Denver goes on a torrid run against the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves (twice), Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors to close the year, which seems improbable and the only team to face a more difficult road than the Spurs, a playoff spot should belong to the squad from the Alamo City.
Do not sleep on the Spurs, who are close to locking up a playoff spot and doing this with media rumors and “chaos” abound. If Leonard returns for this final run, it could make things that much more interesting.