There is obviously a lot of talk surrounding Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs and this is very understandable. A star who finished top three in MVP votes in 2016-2017 and was considered the quietest and lowest maintenance guy in the entire league wants out a year before his contract is up.
Obviously, teams will be interested. Kawhi said he prefers LA, so all teams besides the Lakers and Clippers are, of course, hesitant to make a trade because they don’t want to give up too much for a player who will likely leave. The Lakers and Clippers, on the other hand, are hesitant to trade because they don’t want to give up too much for a player they think they can easily sign next offseason.
The entire situation is a lot more complicated when considering his injury. No one seems to know what is wrong with Kawhi, or why he only played nine games last season. If I were an NBA GM, I wouldn’t want anything to do with Kawhi, and it’s not only because of his injury or the expiring contract.
Let’s first remember that the Spurs have been the model organization of the NBA for the last 20 years. Everyone dreams of having a run like the Spurs. Before this year, they won at least 50 games every season since drafting Duncan and have five championships. Their coach, Greg Popovich, is possibly the greatest coach in NBA history and he has built many Spurs teams where he had 15 guys who enjoyed playing together and played really well in their role.
The team that won the championship in 2014 was the best example of this, as their team wasn’t athletic, and they had no stars in their prime. They displayed great teamwork, and everyone played their role beautifully. The point is, most players enjoy playing for that organization, and this organization has helped many players revive their careers.
The fact that Kawhi hates the Spurs and has been bashed on Pop and the players makes me think something is wrong on Kawhi’s end just because the Spurs have been such a player friendly organization for so long.
Second, many stories came out saying that Kawhi was on his own when dealing with his injury and the Spurs organization was in the dark on what he was doing. He spent a lot of time in New York and wouldn’t even speak to Pop or the others. Some of these stories suggest that he deliberately hid from them when they came to meet him face to face.
Worst of all, he was nowhere to be seen in the playoffs. He and his group showed no indication that they supported the Spurs in the postseason. In what environment is this behavior acceptable? If you did this in most other jobs, you’d be fired and your reputation would be ruined. Why, in this case, do some people side with Kawhi and blame the Spurs? People hate their jobs or dislike their bosses and coworkers all the time, but responding like this is not acceptable.
If I’m a GM of an NBA team, I’m looking at how this relationship played out and I know that my organization hasn’t been the model organization of the NBA over the last 20 years, and I don’t have a legendary coach, and I don’t have players who have won four championships with my team. My organization, whichever one you pick, is not as good as the Spurs. Thus, I would think that if Kawhi had a conflict with the holy grail of all NBA organizations, he would definitely have a conflict with mine as well. If I see that Kawhi has ended the relationship with the Spurs on such bad terms, there’s no way for me to be sure that he wouldn’t do the same to my team.
All of this doesn’t even begin to cover his injuries. Not only is it tough to guess how players will come back from any injury that keeps them out for an extended period of time, but no one seems to know the status of his quad or how he’s been dealing with it. Obviously those are big red flags when evaluating a player’s value.
Lastly, I never thought of Kawhi as a superstar even in his near MVP season. When Kawhi was a rookie, I liked a lot of what I saw and said he could be a solid two-way player, but I also noted that his success would be due to the Spurs system. The Spurs obviously have a lot of success in bringing the best out of all their players. I thought that if he played his entire career with another team, he would be lucky to be a starter.
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