The infamous Uncle Dennis spoke on what went wrong between the San Antonio Spurs and his nephew, superstar small forward Kawhi Leonard.
It’s been a real struggle for the diehard San Antonio Spurs fanbase to deal with the untimely departure of Kawhi Leonard after requesting a trade last Summer. The 27-year-old sat out all but nine games of the 2017-18 season for the Spurs citing a degenerative quad injury as the main concern.
That rusty quad was the cause of tensions between San Antonio and its beloved star, but the truth behind Kawhi’s exit from the organization was mostly shrouded by his quiet and self-contained manner. Clarity may never truly be achieved in this situation, but Dennis Robertson, better known by the masses as ‘Uncle Dennis,’ gave his own insight to the situation during an interview published by Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.
“I think it just became a lack of trust,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports. “They didn’t believe Kawhi couldn’t play and that caused a lack of trust in us and then us not believing in them. Any time a player says he’s not capable of playing, you should believe him. Why would Kawhi just stop playing all of a sudden? He’s a competitor. Sometimes you get these team doctors telling you what you can and cannot do, and Kawhi was just in too much pain to get out there. This was a serious issue. They didn’t believe him, and after that, the relationship couldn’t recover and we decided we had to move on.”
San Antonio’s front office and coaching staff have a particular way of doing things that they prefer not to disrupt – apparently Kawhi and his camp didn’t take too kindly to that. From an outsider’s perspective, it could be construed that the Spurs’ training staff felt that Kawhi could’ve played through the injury because of a lack of structural damage. He and his family didn’t take too kindly to that, creating a rift between the team and its star.
Conformity is one thing that players must adjust to in San Antonio. If you want to succeed as a Spur, you need to be prepared to fight your way through every game, practice and shootaround or else head coach Gregg Popovich will put you in your place. Leonard seems to have grown tired of these ways and instead sought somewhere that doesn’t hold the pressure of five championship banners over his head.
There are always three sides to every story – one side’s perspective, the other side’s perspective and the truth. Unless someone from within the Spurs organization wants to break the team’s norm and make a public statement regarding the issue, we probably won’t hear any more from Pop or the Spurs on Leonard’s departure. They’ve moved on to the current construction of their roster, led by an All-Star-caliber duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan.
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Players lose faith or trust in their teams frequently nowadays; the Spurs fell victim to their own stubbornness while failing to recognize that they could cater to their star player’s needs. This is not to say that the Spurs are in the wrong, but instead that their methods won’t be internalized by every player that comes through their ranks. Not everyone can be Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker in that respect.
Just because Leonard was groomed around the Big Three doesn’t mean that he’d conform and become like them. Leonard unassumingly has an ego and some personal goals that he and his camp believe can be achieved better elsewhere.
The hunger for stardom can be blinding, and Leonard’s camp used this injury as leverage to reinvent ‘The Klaw.’ Whether Spurs fans like it or not, Uncle Dennis’ plan to bring Kawhi back to the limelight of the league is working swimmingly up to this point.
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Now the Spurs fanbase has to figure out how to deal with that reality while remaining excited about their future endeavors.