Kawhi Leonard appears to be out for the season and is at odds with the San Antonio Spurs' leadership. Few stories can be more surprising than this development. Leonard is the last man you'd call a diva, and the Spurs are arguably the best-run franchise in American professional sports over the last quarter-century.
Kawhi hasn't been healthy the entire season
It's easy to forget Kawhi Leonard played nine great games this season because, since October, we've been almost constantly wondering if Leonard's return to the court was right around the corner. This week we learned that Leonard has been medically cleared to play but remains out, apparently on the advice of a specialist unconnected to the team. We also heard Gregg Popovich say he doesn't expect Kawhi to play again this season.
"This is the last 23 games of the season. It doesn't do any good to be wishing and hoping that somebody is going to be added that saves the day. That's all silly stuff," Popovich said. "These guys have gotta go play for themselves and do what they do."
Shortly after Pop's presser, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting Leonard is making the call on his return. According to Woj's report, Kawhi has been medically cleared to return to NBA action, but he has elected to remain on the sidelines. Kawhi reportedly has met with two specialists and has been told he would not injure himself further if he came back to play, but he has chosen not to.
Kawhi might never play for the Spurs ever again
Back in January, ESPN's Jalen Rose and Stephen A. Smith implied they believed Kawhi's time with the Spurs was over. Kawhi will be a free agent in 2019, and there's been little indication that Leonard has a Duncanian lifelong commitment to Pop and the Spurs. San Antonio at least needs to be prepared to lose him in a year.
Though San Antonio hasn't had its best player, the Spurs have once again pieced together a solid season. Now 35-24, the Spurs hold the No. 3 seed in the highly-competitive West. It will be interesting to see if Kawhi will be in action sooner than expected or if we don't see him wearing a Spurs journey at all in the near future. This will be a challenging time for the Spurs and especially coach Pop, who needs to run the team without his best player.