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Rumor: Kawhi Leonard wants Gregg Popovich to lighten practice load

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)


Will the Spurs offer Kawhi Leonard a super-max extension? Would he sign it? If no to either, will San Antonio trade him?

Those are among the NBA’s biggest questions this offseason.

The first step is the Spurs and Leonard trying to repair their reportedly broken relationship.

Leonard missed nearly the entire season with a quad injury and spent significant time away from the team rehabbing. His handling of the injury is clearly a source of contention in San Antonio.

But it’s not the only issue.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

“Don’t you have to sign him,” asks one rival executive. “From what I understand, he wants (Gregg) Popovich to lighten up a little with practice and tweak some things. The Spurs may not want to change their ways, but this is Kawhi Leonard we’re talking about.”

This sounds explosive, but players resisting practice is commonplace. So is star players sometimes having the leverage to get their way on that issue.

Popovich is an excellent coach, but part of that is a willingness to discuss ideas and compromise with his stars. When LaMarcus Aldridge requested a trade last summer because he was unhappy with his offensive role, Popovich changed the offense for Aldridge.

Popovich is also a forward-thinker on player rest. He’s not trying to run anyone into the ground with a ton of practices and might be amenable to reducing practice time further.

It’s unclear what else Leonard wants to tweak. Both sides have been so secretive through this saga. But this finally a potential* glimpse into the larger disconnect.

*At best, this is hearsay -- maybe accurate hearsay, but hearsay nonetheless. It’s also possible this anonymous rival executive is just trying to stir up things in hope of prying Leonard loose.