Analyst blasts Kawhi as "one of the worst superstars ever" amid more injuries
By Cal Durrett
Stephen A. Smith is, at best, generally disliked among San Antonio Spurs fans, but his recent comments might have brought a smile to their faces. The longtime ESPN analyst recently tore into Kawhi Leonard, calling him "one of the worst superstars this game has ever seen." That's a hot take, to be sure, but with Leonard out indefinitely with another knee injury, it's not as crazy as it sounds.
To Smith's credit, he has a point. When Leonard plays, he's still great, but it's increasingly hard to say when that will be. It feels like he shows up and drops 25 points, then sits out the next three games with a knee or quad injury. Clippers fans are probably always on edge when it comes to his availability. Who can blame them?
Spurs fans know all too well about his many absences. Kawhi was frequently on the sidelines in San Antonio, including sitting out 73 games in his final season before demanding a trade. He then missed 22 games in Toronto, mainly for injury maintenance, a contentious topic that led to a rift between the Spurs and their superstar. Leonard disagreed with their diagnosis about whether he had a chronic quad injury, but the fact he hasn't stayed healthy since leaving town seems to vindicate the team.
Leonard's continued injury issues prove the Spurs were right
Leonard is an 11-year veteran but has played just 628 of a possible 948 regular-season games. That means the 31-year-old forward has missed 33.8% of his career games. Some of that is due to load management, which has become a standard practice to reduce wear and tear, but he is out with yet another injury. Worse yet, no one knows if or when he will return this postseason. And his sudden absence dramatically lowers the Clippers' ceiling.
That cliche about the best ability being availability certainly rings true, and Leonard isn't reliable enough as a superstar. At this point, the odds of Kawhi playing 800 regular-season games seems virtually impossible, yet he will likely become a Hall of Famer. Had Leonard stayed, the Spurs may never have needed to rebuild, but they would have still been at the mercy of his durability. And considering he reportedly had disagreements with the Clippers team doctors, the chances he would have eventually had a falling out with the Spurs seem high.
In retrospect, the Spurs were wise to trade Kawhi when they did. Despite finishing 22-60 this season, they are better off without him and will hopefully have a new franchise player to build around soon. He's the Clippers' problem now.