San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said on Wednesday that he does not expect Kawhi Leonard to return this season, but you may be surprised to hear that Leonard is the one making that decision — not the team’s doctors.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Leonard has been medically cleared to return from his right quad injury, but he is choosing not to play. The star forward met with a specialist in New York to get a second opinion before the All-Star break, and he was apparently told he will not injure himself further if he plays. However, Wojnarowski notes that Leonard will have to feel comfortable with the level of pain he is in if he decides to return.
Leonard went through workouts at the National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York while getting a second opinion and was reportedly accompanied by Spurs personnel.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was initially optimistic about Leonard’s injury when the team disclosed it on Sept. 30, but he later expressed some frustration over it. Popovich said the strangest thing about Leonard’s slow recovery is that Tony Parker suffered a similar injury in the Western Conference playoffs last May that was actually worse, as Parker ruptured his left quadriceps tendon.
According to Wojnarowski, Leonard’s injury situation has “inspired a palpable stress around the (Spurs) organization.” That’s similar to a report we heard from a month ago about Leonard’s relationship with the team.
Leonard can opt out of his contract after next season, and there has been some talk that the 26-year-old could leave the team. It was not long ago that it appeared Leonard was the future of the Spurs franchise in the post-Tim Duncan era. His quad injury has clearly created some serious tension.