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Report: Kawhi Leonard repeatedly told Spurs he’d return then didn’t

Gregg Popovich, Kawhi Leonard

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) talks with head coach Gregg Popovich during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Saturday, March 12, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 93-85. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)


Kawhi Leonard’s people reportedly hid him from Spurs staffers who tried to visit him in New York.

That’s only one example of the distrust between Leonard and the Spurs – from president/coach Gregg Popovich to general manager R.C. Buford to his teammates.

Many problems came to a head last spring. A timeline:

  • March 7: Leonard said he’d return “soon.”
  • March 10: A report emerged Leonard is targeting a return the next week against the Pelicans.
  • March 15: San Antonio beat New Orleans without Leonard.
  • March 17: The Spurs held a players-only meeting imploring Leonard to play.
  • March 22: Manu Ginobili said, “He is not coming back. For me, he’s not coming back because it’s not helping. We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys made us fall for it.”

Michael C. Wright of ESPN on Back To Back The Podcast:

A week before that, Kawhi told those guys he was going to be back for that game.
And that didn’t happen. And that was the second or third time they had been told something like that and then it didn’t happen. So, they were frustrated.
Kawhi and his people were saying Kawhi is going to be back for this game. That doesn’t happen. He’ll be back for this game. And he’s telling the players, he’s telling R.C. and Pop this is when he’s going to be back. And every time, it was just sort of, ah, nope, pump fake that. And that’s what was happening, so they were getting frustrated about, too.
And that’s why you have the team meeting where they want to know like, “Hey dude. You said you were coming back this time. You said you were coming back this time. When are you coming back?” That’s what that was about.

Leonard never returned, and now he wants to be traded.

The Spurs said their preference was to keep Leonard – as it should be. He’s a superstar in his prime (if healthy), and they won’t get equal return if they deal him now.

But the more we learn about this situation, the less likely it seems San Antonio can repair its relationship with Leonard before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. The acrimony is too great.

What will the Spurs do about that, though? That’s a far tougher question to answer.