Kawhi Leonard’s situation sounds straight out of Westworld
By Rob Wolkenbrod
The San Antonio Spurs, Kawhi Leonard, Westworld and how it all relates in some way.
For two decades, the San Antonio Spurs have mastered an almost robotic approach. No one speaks out, everyone follows the “Spurs way” and success results in the art of six NBA Finals appearances and five championships. One word to sum it up? Consistency.
Then came a breach in the armor — a threat to end everything in place since Gregg Popovich became the head coach in 1996. No one expected it in September 2017. Not even in January 2018. But, it came in the form of Kawhi Leonard’s trade desire, with unhappiness over the handling of his quadriceps injury as the reason.
LaMarcus Aldridge was the first player to ever want out of the Popovich era, when a trade request surfaced before the 2017 NBA Draft. San Antonio contained the problem, made an adjustment to his contract and everything worked out smoothly. It’s not the same for Leonard, who managed to break the mold, and not in the franchise’s best interest.
It’s a “revolt” against the Spurs way, almost as he pulled a page out of the Westworld playbook. He had outside factors (Leonard’s uncle and agent) influence his line of thinking, à la Robert Ford reprogramming hosts to make the stakes real. Of course, the situations do not line up perfectly, but they relate in how it’s a fracture in the long standing company style.
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Westworld may close a chapter on its hosts vs. humans storyline Sunday night, when the season 2 finale airs on HBO. However, San Antonio does not have an end in sight with Leonard, the player that threatens to end the status quo, the almighty Spurs that have maintained their position in the NBA. They may become like everyone else — prone to change, chaos, and controversy.
Part of Leonard’s personality, as well, has been this “robotic” personality, where he shows little personality on the court and never speaks off of it; he rarely provided a quote during this season’s hysteria to calm to the rumors, but that may have spoken louder than if he actually said something to the media. Silence spoke volumes when everyone looked for answers.
Now, with Leonard frustrated with the Spurs, it amplifies everything, especially in the NBA’s most hectic time of the year. No draft hype. No meaningful games. Just rumors, storylines, talk, and the real transactions, sprinkled in amongst everything else.
After all these years, Leonard’s personality has awoken behind the scenes. He wants a trade and he wants Los Angeles. It’s a franchise-changing proposition for the Spurs, one that will take a decision, eventually. Can they put out the fire, though, and retain their prized possession, as if nothing happened? Westworld will try to do the same with their own, except in the form of hosts, the stars of the show.
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The only way San Antonio can “reprogram” this situation is if they manage to ease the tension with Leonard and agree to the five-year, $219 million deal, better known as the “supermax” deal. That seems far away and maybe impossible after six months of issues.