For the first time in 20 years, the Spurs’ dominance might be approaching to an end.
Throughout this period of time, the Spurs won a total of five rings and made the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons under the leadership of head coach Gregg Popovich. It went through the eras of the “Twin Towers” with Tim Duncan and David Robinson and their “Big Three” of Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.
As Duncan decided to call it a career in 2016, the leadership of the team was officially given over to the young superstar, Kawhi Leonard. In 2015-16 and 2016-17, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year became a top MVP candidate and earned All-NBA First Team honors. Leonard showed tons of talent and potential to be the face of the league one day.
Now, fast-forwarding to the 2018 offseason, Kawhi Leonard “wants out” of San Antonio, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN, causing the organization to face a very tough decision of what to do with their franchise player.
In the 2017-18 season, Leonard missed nearly the first two months of the regular season and only appeared in 9 games due to a right quad injury. Although the Spurs’ medical staff cleared Leonard to play in February, he wanted to continue to do rehab with his own doctors. By doing so, he sat out for the rest of the season and remain separated from the team.
Throughout the period of time that Leonard was sidelined, he felt that the organization betrayed him and was particularly upset over the unsupportive public comments that were spoken by Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski.
That makes no sense.
Leonard must realize that speculation and trust problems will arise throughout the team when he was already cleared by the Spurs and refused to play, especially when he remained distant from the organization. When Leonard sought medical treatment from his own doctors, this also showed Leonard’s lack of confidence with the team’s medical staff. So, who should be really mad at who?
However, there may be other reasons that have not been explicitly stated as to why Kawhi Leonard wants to disembark from the Spurs. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, it is uncertain whether Popovich will coach beyond the 2020 Summer Olympics. It is also rumored that he could spend the 2019-20 season to prepare to coach the USA national team.
Popovich is also 69 years old and his wife recently passed away a few months ago. With Popovich’s contract expiring in 2020, why would Leonard want to remain with the team when there is no guarantee that Popovich, the mastermind behind all of the Spurs’ success, will be coaching.
In conclusion, whether or not the Spurs’ dynasty is over entails on whatever the Spurs decide to do with Leonard.
If the Spurs choose to trade him, it is unlikely that the franchise would get anything that it wants in return. This entitles the Spurs to trade for young players and enter rebuilding mode, something which the organization may not want to do with their current roster.
However, keeping Leonard is definitely still an option. In last year’s offseason, when LaMarcus Aldridge requested to be traded from the Spurs, Popovich refused to trade him and instead worked with him to make him feel more comfortable and confident. In return, Aldridge was an All-Star and averaged 22.6 points this season. If the Spurs decide to keep Leonard, the organization must fix his relationship with the other players and Popovich right away.