Their players are unselfish and leave their pride at the door when they arrive. Their coach is an omniscient leader incapable of errors. They are an anomaly of an organization. They are pure and free for flaws. They are the San Antonio Spurs.
For the last decade, we believed that. We believed all of it. How naïve of us.
It turns out, believe it or not, that human beings are still behind the operations of the Spurs. And, if history has taught us anything, it’s that self-interest always exceeds collective-interest. Perhaps the reports of Kawhi Leonard being unhappy in San Antonio come as a surprise to you. However, the reason behind such a shock is why we have to take a step back and rethink everything we perceive of the Spurs.
We must start with questioning if Leonard is truly unhappy in San Antonio. But before we answer if he’s unhappy, we must question what was always assumed. Yes, Leonard's monotonous expressions and seemingly dull persona make it hard to judge, at least on the surface, if anything has changed. However, that’s the point here. How sure are we that he was ever truly happy in the first place?
This isn’t to say he necessarily wasn’t. But we have to stop perceiving the Spurs as infallible. Their stars are human too, often succumbing to the pressures of greed and self-identity. Gregg Popovich has lost games for the Spurs—big ones. They make mistakes; they signed Pau Gasol and let Jonathan Simmons walk, after all.
They are like any other organization in the league, in that they are not free of human error or characteristics. They may be the most competent, well-informed and best led organization in the NBA, maybe even in all of sports. However, it’s naïve of us to view them as perfect as we do.
Kawhi Leonard may very well want out of San Antonio. From what we know, his reasoning for this doesn’t make sense. However, what we know is also very limited. Leonard himself rarely discloses any sort of information, and the Spurs are a vacuum when it comes to leaks. However, we do know a couple of things.
Leonard’s unhappiness, first reported by ESPN, was too big a fact for even the Spurs to keep suppressed. Additionally, there’s some important context information that helps make the situation a bit more understandable. Perhaps it’s about the money?
Where do you rank Kawhi Leonard among the best players in the league? Wherever that is, just note that he’s the 45th best paid player in the league, according to HoopsHype, pocketing close to $19 million this season. More importantly, Leonard is eligible for a jaw-dropping contract this year. Due to him making the All-Star team last year, Leonard is eligible to sign a super-max contract extension worth $217 million over 5-years. It’s the ridiculous James Harden contract.
However, a league source confirmed to Hoops Inq. that Leonard has already turned down the offer, at least verbally, twice this season. Such interactions have led the relationship between the Spurs front office and their franchise player to grow sour. But it gets more interesting than that. A source close to the situation also revealed to Hoops Inq. that there is a growing concern within the organization that Leonard may be “milking” the injury and delaying his return.
The interesting tidbit is that, before we go crazy over said speculation, the Spurs had another player with a similar injury. Leonard has been rehabbing a lingering quad injury. Tony Parker, however, suffered a much worse variation of a quad injury, having ruptured his quad tendon. Yet, not only is Parker back, but he’s already played in 16 more games than Leonard this year.
Very few things make sense surrounding Kawhi Leonard’s situation. We ought to keep a close eye on the Spurs as the trade deadline approaches. However, one thing that makes less sense than the entire Leonard situation is being naïve enough to think the Spurs are a trouble-free organization.