11:37am: Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News provides a few more details on the Spurs’ players-only meeting, writing that Leonard’s veteran teammates wanted to know if he planned to play this season, and whether he’d return in time to help them with their playoff push. Leonard was “caught off guard by the meeting” but “stood his ground,” writes Young, adding (via Twitter) that the conversation wasn’t “tense,” as ESPN’s report suggested.
According to Young, Leonard received support from some teammates, who urged him not to return until he feels healthy enough to do so. The meeting, which lasted for about five or 10 minutes, ended without a clear update or timeline on Leonard’s status, Young notes.
For what it’s worth, Danny Green tweeted a response to Wojnarowski’s story, saying that it “couldn’t be any more incorrect.” My guess is that Green is pushing back specifically against the idea that the Spurs are pressuring Leonard to return.
According to Wojnarowski, veteran guard Tony Parker “quarterbacked” the meeting, which saw several Spurs players expressing frustration and confusion over an apparent divide between Leonard and the team that has generated tension within the organization. Wojnarowski adds that Saturday’s conversation was described as “tense and emotional at times” by league sources.
Leonard, who has missed all but nine games this season due to a quadriceps injury, was reportedly cleared by team doctors to return from that injury, Wojnarowski reported a month ago. However, the star forward has not felt comfortable enough from a health standpoint to play, and hasn’t received medical clearance from his own doctors. According to Wojnarowski, Leonard remained “resolute” during Saturday’s meeting, insisting that he had good reason to remain sidelined.
League sources tell Wojnarowski that Leonard has impressed teammates and coaches in 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 workouts as of late, and there was a belief that he’d be able to return sometime in mid-March. According to Woj, Leonard has targeted games within the last week as possible return dates, but ultimately hasn’t felt confident enough in his health to play.
The Leonard situation has been one of the most bizarre storylines of the NBA season, with whispers of tension between the Spurs and their star player plaguing the typically stable franchise for much of the year. Reports have suggested that both sides still anticipate a long-term union – Leonard will be eligible for a long-term extension this offseason – but that no longer appears to be the lock it once was.