There is an old Winston Churchill quote where Churchill says in part, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Churchill was referring to Russia during World War II, but he could have easily been discussing Kawhi Leonard. What is actually going on with Leonard is anyone’s guess, as the Spurs forward has remained mostly silent on his status.
San Antonio has not gone out of its way to defend Leonard either. Fans holding out hope that Leonard could make an 11th hour appearance against the Warriors are likely to be disappointed. San Antonio reporter John Elizondo posted this video on the eve of Game 1 showing no sign of Leonard heading into the team hotel.
San Antonio Express-News’ Tom Orsborn reported Leonard has been ruled out for Game 1 against the Warriors.
“If he does, we’ll be caught off guard,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told The Mercury News’ Mark Medina on whether Golden State is expecting Leonard to play.
The bigger question is the severity of Leonard’s quad injury, and his relationship with the Spurs. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Spurs held a players-only meeting in March that, at times, became heated.
The conversation was described as tense and emotional at times. Several teammates spoke up, expressing frustration and confusion over a growing divide that has created significant tension between Leonard and the Spurs. Outside the Spurs locker room, players’ voices could be heard through the door, sources said.
Leonard remained resolute in his response, insisting that he has good reason to continue sitting out because he still isn’t fully healthy, sources said. Leonard told his teammates that he planned to return once he felt able to do so, sources said.
Several Spurs players, including Danny Green and Rudy Gay, refuted the report that the meeting became tense. Manu Ginobli has been public on his belief that Leonard will not be returning.
“For me, he’s not coming back, because it’s not helping [to think that he is],” Ginobili told USA Today. “We fell for it a week ago, again. I guess you guys made us fall for it. But as I said maybe a month ago, I don’t know when it was, we’ve got to think that he’s not coming back, that we are who we are and that we’ve got to fight without him. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he’s ready for the jump ball.”
Spurs fans looking for a glimmer of hope could cite Leonard’s sister Miesha Slayton’s recent post on Leonard’s Instagram fan page. According to News 4 San Antonio, Leonard’s sister tried to assure fans he wants to return.
“What makes u think he’s not working on getting back to his team? Make sure u speak Facts! Kawhi is still a Spur,” Miesha Slayton wrote (via News 4).
In a rare interview this season, Leonard noted he wanted to retire as a Spur, but rumors continue to swirl in San Antonio about his unhappiness.
According to Spotrac, Leonard is set to make $20 million next season, and has a player option for the 2019-20 season for $21.3 million. Leonard has only played in nine games this season, and has not played since January 13th.
Some have wondered why Leonard has not been with the team during games. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich noted Leonard is rehabbing.
“It’s the same as a player who is the 13th man sitting on the end of the bench,” Popovich told ABC News. “The more you’re participating, the more you feel like you’re a part of the deal. But anybody who’s injured, sitting on the bench or not playing, feels a little bit different, of course. That’s just human nature. He’s a nice guy. I love the kid. What am I gonna do? Sometimes he wants to rehab in the room, getting stronger; use the time wisely instead of watching us out there.”