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- San Antonio Spurs players and Kawhi Leonard held a players-only meeting in which players asked Leonard to return to the court from an injury, according to a report.
- The meeting was described as “tense and emotional at times” with players expressing frustration over Leonard’s continued absence.
- Leonard has missed all but nine games this season and at one point was cleared to return to the court, but decided not to.
- Leonard’s continued absence has reportedly caused a divide and frayed the relationship between him and the team.
The San Antonio Spurs had a players-only meeting last Saturday asking Kawhi Leonard to return to the court before the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
According to Wojnarowski, the meeting was “tense and emotional at times,” with players expressing confusion and frustration over Leonard’s absence.
The meeting is the latest chapter in one of the most bizarre sagas in the NBA. Leonard has played just nine games with the Spurs this season, missing nearly all of the season with a quadriceps injury. Various reports have indicated a division between Leonard and the Spurs over his rehab, and Leonard has reportedly been cleared to return the court but hasn’t yet.
Wojnarowski reported that Leonard was “resolute” and insisted that he had good reason to continue sitting out.
Spurs veteran guard Manu Ginobili told reporters this week that the team had to proceed as if Leonard wasn’t returning. The comments came after the team meeting.
“He is not coming back,” Ginobili said. “For me, he’s not coming back because it’s not helping [to think Leonard is returning]. We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys made us fall for it. But we have to think that he’s not coming back, that we are who we are, and that we got to fight without him.”
According to the report, Leonard has impressed coaches during 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 scrimmages and has made targeted return dates, only to back out and say he did not feel comfortable returning to the court.
The Spurs are currently in sixth place in the Western Conference, and are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Without Leonard, an MVP-level player, the Spurs have been short-handed and at times over-burdened.
Ginobili’s comments suggest that Leonard wasn’t swayed by the team meeting. With 11 games to go and the playoffs rapidly approaching, one of the most puzzling situations in the NBA only seems to be getting worse. Whether Leonard is truly not ready to return, doesn’t trust the Spurs’ doctors, or is involved in a conflict with the Spurs and a family member, as one report suggested, it seems more and more possible that the most stable franchise will enter the playoffs without its best player.