Kawhi Leonard has played just nine games this season, the last one coming on January 13th. His continued absence has been a rare example of division within the NBA’s most cohesive franchise, as Gregg Popovich hasn’t been shy about implying that Kawhi’s absence is Kawhi’s choice, as opposed to a real injury concern.
Now with the Spurs down a game in their opening round series against the Warriors, a report from Yahoo’s Shams Charania has Kawhi out for the playoffs entirely:
San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard is expected to miss the remainder of the postseason as he continues to rehabilitate his right quadriceps injury, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Leonard has been rehabbing in New York because that is where his medical staff is located, and he has not been cleared by his doctors, league sources said. Time has run short for Leonard — one of the league’s best players when healthy — to make a sensible return to the Spurs, who lost Game 1 of their first-round series to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Leonard has made strides recently in training and is focused on regaining his full health, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
That is probably not a surprise for the Spurs; Popovich has seemed resigned to this for a while now, and has been fielding questions in a prickly style (even on the Pop scale.)
Any chance Kawhi rejoins the team during the series, Pop? Pop: "You'll have to ask Kawhi and his group that question."
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 15, 2018
So, yeah that was a few hours before the Yahoo report, which does make you wonder whether they’re more connected than you might think. (They’re obviously connected a bit regardless.) Did it push Kawhi to just declare he was out? Or did Pop say it knowing Kawhi was definitely not coming back?
Either way, it’s an obvious sign that there’s some friction within the NBA’s most well-oiled machine. Leonard is under contract through next year. If he hits the market this offseason, it would be both a surprise given everything before this year and not a surprise given how this year has gone.