When I saw a post from my esteemed site co-expert Ethan Farina calling for the San Antonio Spurs to pursue Kawhi Leonard, I could almost see the bat signal in the sky leading me to my keyboard. In the post, he eloquently lays out why the Spurs should be interested in re-acquiring their spurned star’s services despite the ugly breakup between both sides.
As with anything Kawhi-related, the opinion is dividing Spurs fans down the middle, with one side arguing it’s “time to move on” while the rest is saying he’s “never welcome back here.” In the interest of showcasing both sides, and because I lean toward the latter, I felt it was my duty to represent the other side of the matter.
I haven’t hidden the fact that I don’t care much for Kawhi after what he did to San Antonio. After all, I posted this once his Clippers blew a 3-1 lead in last season’s playoffs.
– Kawhi wanted to go to LA– Kawhi & his uncle spun a narrative that the #Spurs were mishandling his injury.– He got his wish & just blew a 3-1 lead with the Clips.– Thanks for 2014, but I'm enjoying this. #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/SxfKCooM3e
— Josh Paredes (@Josh810) September 16, 2020
I also jumped on the opportunity to call out Kawhi’s diva-like qualities after a column from The Athletic exposed some unflattering takes about his arrangements with the Clippers.
We all know there’s next to a zero percent chance of the Spurs and Kawhi having serious talks of a reunion. Therefore, the real question here is more of a hypothetical one that will probably linger until he retires.
Next: Why the Spurs shouldn't make a run at Kawhi
Should the San Antonio Spurs even try getting their former Finals MVP back?
There seems to be a belief in the Spurs community that there are only two steadfast sides to this question. It’s either “the team/fans need to get over it and pursue such a great player” or “Kawhi Leonard is dead to us.”
My feelings on the matter are a bit more complicated than that. Do I dislike Kawhi to this day? Sure. Do I root against him for the most part? Absolutely. Is it out of mostly bitterness? No doubt. Is that why I wouldn’t want him back in the Alamo City? Not exactly.
Leonard’s resume has him on a fast track to being a Hall of Famer, and there’s no doubt he’d fit in well with this team’s young core. His two-way abilities could propel just about any team into contending status almost immediately. Basketball-wise, going after him is a no-brainer.
On the flip side, it’s not like the drama surrounding Kawhi has completely disappeared after his untimely departure from the Spurs. By now, I think it was pretty apparent that Kawhi was going to find his way to Los Angeles no matter what it took. The man won a title IN THE EAST and STILL left the second he could. Beyond that confusing decision, the drama around him has only increased.
Next: The Drama Surrounding Kawhi
The San Antonio Spurs can make do without the unnecessary drama
Since leaving Toronto, his camp reportedly illegally requested special treatment from the Lakers, and his presence has caused serious chemistry issues within the Clippers (subscription required). Kawhi’s Clippers are currently 10 games above .500, but you have to wonder if they’ll flame out once again this postseason.
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Seeing the Clippers load up with two-way talent like Paul George and Kawhi plus the defensive prowess of Patrick Beverley, I picked them to win it all last year.
Of course, that was before reading reports of Kawhi and George controlling team practice schedules or the fact that teammates believed the two had control of when they would and wouldn’t be playing at a moment’s notice.
Are things different this season now that Tyronn Lue is in and Doc Rivers is out? No one knows for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see another essay highlighting the special treatment of Kawhi if another Clippers’ implosion were to occur.
The bottom line? Kawhi is still a top-five player in the league when he’s motivated. He just wouldn’t be worth the risk of damaging the long-lasting, drama-free culture Coach Popovich has established for over two decades that has led to five NBA championships. No one is more forgiving and works better with players than Coach Pop, but we’ve already seen how much good that did when Leonard’s camp, led by Uncle Dennis, got involved.
This isn’t a case of being bitter toward an ex, more like that ex still has unnecessary baggage that wouldn’t make a pursuit worth it. I’ll undoubtedly get comments that I need to get over it, and that’s fine. I know there’s still emotion on both sides of the Kawhi argument.
Whichever side you’re on, there’s a decent argument to be made either way. In the end, there’s still a slim chance the two sides will ever have a proper reunion any time soon.