San Antonio Spurs News

Why the Spurs Are Proving Kawhi Leonard Wrong

Cal Durrett
Kawhi Leonard, Gregg Popovich
Kawhi Leonard, Gregg Popovich / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages
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San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Kawhi Leonard checked out way too soon

Unfortunately, instead of staying the course and trusting that the Spurs could continue to build around him, Leonard checked out. He demanded a trade after playing just five games during the 2017-18 season and tried to force his way to the Lakers or Clippers.

San Antonio, of course, shipped him to Toronto instead in a deal that netted them DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and the pick that became Keldon Johnson. That deal looks a lot better now for the Spurs when you consider Johnson's upside, Poeltl developing into one of the league's best centers, and the assets acquired from signing and trading DeRozan.

Conversely, Kawhi won a championship with the Raptors, which certainly felt like salt in the wound to Spurs fans. However, since then, things haven't necessarily gone Leonard's way. He did get to play in L.A. for the Clippers, and with Paul George, but they're now in year three together and are unlikely to win a title this season.

Additionally, Leonard will be 31 next season and returning from a major injury while also having to manage a degenerative knee condition.

Leonard, however, disagreed with that diagnosis, and it was a big part of the rift between the team and Leonard, with the Spurs' training staff taking the blame. Ironically, the Clippers' training staff
has also reportedly lost Leonard's trust, proving that it wasn't them but him. Simply put, he may never be the same player that he was.

Kawhi probably won't be one of those superstars who plays at a high level well into their 30s. That limits the Clippers' title window, and they'll face tough competition when he's fully healthy again. Factor in that he recently signed a 4-year $176 million deal and that they traded half a dozen assets to pair him with George, and the Clippers may never win a championship with Leonard.

While the Spurs aren't close to a championship soon, it can be argued that their immediate future looks brighter, which I'll get into next.

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