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Rumor: Kawhi Leonard holds grudge over Kevin Durant system-player remark

Warriors Raptors Basketball

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) drives around Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)


After Kawhi Leonard won NBA Finals MVP in 2014, Kevin Durant essentially said Leonard was a product of the Spurs’ system. As Leonard, who’s now thriving with the Raptors, grew into a superstar, Durant praised him while maintaining he didn’t regret his 2014 comment.

That could complicate matters for a team like the Clippers, who plan to pursue both Leonard and Durant in free agency next summer.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

I was talking to somebody about that, somebody who knows Kawhi. And I’m just going to give it the qualifier here that, who really knows Kawhi? I mean, very few, I mean very, very few people. Certainly I’m not saying that this is some sort of insight that is dazzling. But, from what I understand, when Kawhi heard that quote, that he was a system player, that it really, really p—ed him off and that that’s one of the things that you carry with him.

The odds were against a team getting both Leonard and Durant next summer, anyway. The odds are always against two superstars pairing up.

But I doubt Durant’s remark five years prior would stop Leonard if he wanted to play with Durant otherwise. It’s such an easy thing to get over. People get over far bigger conflicts to achieve bigger goals all the time. A team with Leonard and Durant would instantly become a championship contender.

That said, as Windhorst pointed out, who really knows with Leonard? He’s so private. It’s tough to get a read on him. Maybe this has stuck with him. If so, the ramifications could be league-altering.