Kawhi Leonard

Spurs Held Players-Only Meeting To Discuss Kawhi Leonard’s Status

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.

11:21am: The Spurs held a players-only meeting following Saturday’s win over Minnesota in an effort to implore Kawhi Leonard to return to the lineup, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

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.

Spurs players, including Manu Ginobili, told reporters on Wednesday that they need to move forward as if Leonard won’t play again this season.

Latest On Kawhi Leonard

Despite some rumblings that Kawhi Leonard would return to action last week, the Spurs star remains sidelined due to the quadriceps injury that has plagued him all season. While Leonard hasn’t been ruled out for the season, his Spurs teammates say they’re operating as if he won’t be back, per Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com.

“He is not coming back,” Manu Ginobili said of Leonard. “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. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he is ready for the jungle.”

Ginobili isn’t breaking any news here — he’s simply expressing the sort of mindset that the Spurs need for their last 11 games as they push for a spot in the playoffs. Patty Mills expressed a similar sentiment, suggesting that while the Spurs “obviously hope to get [Leonard] back” but have “got to move on” from thinking about it.

As Wright notes, Gregg Popovich and sources within the Spurs organization have maintained that the team will err on the side of the caution with Leonard, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we won’t see the veteran forward again this season. San Antonio is expected to offer Leonard a lucrative extension this offseason, so his long-term health is the club’s top priority. Still, a source tells Wright that Leonard is feeling “much better” and there’s still optimism that he’ll return to the court down the stretch.

Given how tight-lipped the Spurs have been on Leonard’s situation, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if Leonard played within the next game or two, but it also wouldn’t be a shock if he doesn’t return until 2018/19. For now, as Ginobili and Mills explained, the Spurs will prepare for each game as if Leonard won’t be available.

Injury Notes: Leonard, Hayward, Irving, Exum

The Kawhi Leonard situation in San Antonio continues to be a baffling one. Asked today if Leonard has increased his three-on-three work or been upgraded to five-on-five play, Spurs point guard Tony Parker replied, “I have no idea. He isn’t practicing with us,” per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Parker also wondered aloud if Leonard might be nearing a point of no return for this season.

“We have what 14, games left? So it’s getting closer and closer that at some point it makes no sense (to bring him back),” Parker said of his Spurs teammate. “He didn’t play for like two or three months. He didn’t play for eight months, technically.”

While we wait to see if Leonard can make him back for the final few weeks of the 2017/18 season, let’s round up a few more injury notes and updates from across the NBA….

  • Appearing today on Toucher & Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that Gordon Hayward is back on track in his recovery from ankle surgery after suffering a setback recently. “He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago. We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought,” Ainge said, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “But, other than that, his work ethic and his determination have been amazing. … I don’t want to get people’s hopes up. He still is not back on the basketball court and we have a month left in the regular season. He’s got a ways to go but we’re excited about his progress and his determination.”
  • During that same radio appearance, Ainge said that Kyrie Irving may need to undergo a surgical procedure on his knee at some point. However, the Celtics president made that surgery sound anything but urgent, writes Forsberg. “He has a surgery that may need to happen,” Ainge said of Irving. “But maybe not this summer, maybe the following summer or maybe the summer after that. I think that he could probably do it any time he wanted, but I’m not sure that it’s needed at this moment.”
  • After missing the first 68 games of the season with a shoulder injury, point guard Dante Exum will be available on Thursday night, the Jazz announced (via Twitter). Exum likely won’t play a major role for Utah, but with Raul Neto sidelined due to a fractured wrist, the former No. 5 overall pick should get a chance to see some action.

Injury Notes: Curry, Leonard, Porzingis, George

The Warriors will hold Stephen Curry out of action for another week while he recovers from a “tweaked” right ankle, the team announced in a tweet. Curry is making progress with his rehab, according to the Warriors, and will be re-evaluated March 20. That means he will miss at least four more games. Curry has been sidelined since Thursday when he hurt the ankle while being fouled on a layup attempt against the Spurs.

There’s more injury-related news from around the NBA:

  • Kawhi Leonard hasn’t received medical clearance to start playing again, relays Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich remains in daily contact with Leonard and says the team is being careful not to bring him back before he’s fully ready. “He’s got to be cleared by his medical staff that he’s seeing. And until he gets cleared, we can’t make a decision on when he’s coming back,” Popovich said. “So once he gets cleared, then he and I can sit down and talk and see what we think about an appropriate time to come back. But that clearance has to be obtained first.” An earlier report indicated that Leonard might play tomorrow, but San Antonio has ruled that out.
  • Kristaps Porzingis was “shocked” when doctors told him he had torn his left ACL, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Making his first public comments since the injury, the Knicks forward vowed to return to his All-Star level, but isn’t sure when he might start playing again. “I can’t give you anything,’’ Porzingis said. “I have no idea. You should ask the doctor, maybe. And he would tell you something. And myself, I’m just going day by day really, and we’ll see where is the comeback at. There is no timetable for now. It’s pretty far off to put a timetable out there.’’
  • Paul George left last night’s game with a groin injury, but doesn’t expect to miss any time, according to Royce Young of ESPN. George will be re-evaluated today before the Thunder decide whether he can play Friday.
  • X-rays were negative on Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis, who left Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia with a sprained left ankle. He will undergo an MRI when the team returns home.
  • The Lakers are listing Kyle Kuzma as questionable for tonight’s game after he sprained his right ankle Tuesday, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. X-rays taken last night were negative.
  • Larry Nance Jr. left Tuesday’s game early after he tweaked his right hamstring, relays ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link). The Cavaliers center said he’s “absolutely fine” and plans to play tomorrow in Portland.

Kawhi Leonard To Remain Sidelined Through Thursday

MARCH 13, 2:16pm: Leonard is expected to remain on the shelf through Thursday’s game, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports, who tweets that the Spurs and their star forward will continue evaluating his quad injury in hopes of a return.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne adds (via Twitter) that Leonard is feeling “much better” and remains optimistic that he’ll be able to play before the end of the regular season. Shelburne confirms that Kawhi won’t play on Thursday vs. New Orleans.

MARCH 10, 7:55pm: The Spurs could have Kawhi Leonard back in the lineup by Thursday, sources tell Lisa Salters of ESPN.

A lingering quad injury has sidelined Leonard for all but nine games this season. He recently said that he has been working toward a comeback and expects to return to the court “soon.” His workouts have included riding a stationary bike and participating in three-on-three drills at practice. However, those drills have been against staff members rather than players.

Leonard, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, is coming off a season in which he finished third in the MVP voting and scored a career-high 25.5 points per game. His presence will be a welcome boost to a Spurs team that is suddenly fighting for a playoff spot, just a game and a half ahead of the ninth-place Nuggets and Jazz coming into tonight’s action.

Injury Updates: Leonard, Hill, Williams, Ross, Wall

Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard will meet with coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday to discuss his progress rehabbing from a quad injury, Michael C. Wright of ESPN reports. Leonard could return as early as Thursday if both parties feel he’s ready to play again. The team’s franchise player has been sidelined since January 13th with the lingering quad issue that has cost him all but nine games this season. 

In other injury updates from around the league:

  • Pelicans forward Solomon Hill could make his season debut as early as this weekend, William Guillory of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Hill has been sidelined by a torn hamstring suffered in late August.  “We’re so close to the finish line that we’re definitely not going to rush the situation now,” coach Alvin Gentry told Guillory. “I can see a situation where he might be able to play a few minutes here or there.” Hill is in the second year of a four-year, $48MM contract.
  • Suns reserve center Alan Williams could make his season debut on Tuesday, according to Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic. Williams underwent surgery in September to repair the meniscus in his right knee with a six-month timetable to return. He went through a full practice on Monday. Williams, whose three-year, $17MM contract is only guaranteed through this season, averaged 11.4 PPG and 9.1 RPG after the All-Star break last season.
  • Magic swingman Terrence Ross is questionable to return this season, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Ross has been sidelined since November 29th with a knee injury. A bone bruise has stalled Ross’ return, Robbins adds. “Some days it feels good, and then some days it kind of flares up,” Ross told Robbins. Ross has one season left on a contract that pays him $10.9MM annually.
  • Wizards point guard John Wall went through some non-contract drills Monday as he works his way back from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports relays. If medically cleared, Wall could practice in full for the first time on Friday, Hughes adds.

Southwest Notes: Spurs, Leonard, Mavericks, Evans

The Spurs have made the playoffs every year for the past 20 seasons and won five titles along the way, but as Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes, the NBA’s model franchise is in the midst of its worst season since 1996/97 – Tim Duncan‘s senior season at Wake Forest – and is in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

The Spurs have the NBA’s toughest remaining schedule, with two games left against the Rockets, Warriors, Pelicans, Thunder, and Wizards. Add in the fact that the team is 2-8 over its last 10 games and only 2.5 games ahead of the eight, ninth, and tenth place teams in the Western Conference, and one can see why fans in San Antonio may have reason to worry for the first time in two decades.

Here’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • In more positive Spurs‘ news, Michael C. Wright of ESPN is citing a highly knowledgeable source who tells him that Kawhi Leonard is working hard and putting himself through some “insane” workouts in an effort to return to action as quickly as possible.
  • In a Q&A session, columnist Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News answered some questions on Mavericks‘ owner Mark Cuban and whether NBA commissioner Adam Silver would step in and force Cuban to sell the team a la current Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson or former Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News is reporting that Mavericks‘ swingman Dorian Finney-Smith is expected to return to action this weekend for the first time since injuring his left knee/quadriceps in early November.
  • The Grizzlies are being cautious with Tyreke Evans‘ recovery from a rib injury, writes Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Evans, who has been out since late February, remains day-to-day and will not play against the Jazz tomorrow night.

Kawhi Leonard Aims To Return Soon, Wants To Finish Career With Spurs

Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard spoke to reporters following the team’s practice on Wednesday, asserting that he still aims to play down the stretch after missing most of the season with a quad injury. While Leonard won’t travel with the club on its upcoming three-game road trip, he said he hopes to be back on the court “soon,” as Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News details.

“I don’t have a set date right now,” Leonard said. “I just have to keep doing what I’m doing. The progression that I am making has been great. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing.”

There have been whispers throughout the 2017/18 season that Leonard’s injury situation has created some friction between him and the team. Just last month, head coach Gregg Popovich suggested that his star forward may not return at all this season, despite a report later that day indicating that Leonard had received medical clearance to play. Asked today if the treatment of his injury had created issues between him and the Spurs, Leonard downplayed that notion, per Orsborn.

“Everything was done as a group,” Leonard said. “I don’t feel like nothing was friction. I talk to Pop everyday. He knows what the progressions were, he knew what I am doing the whole entire time.”

With reports hinting at possible discord in San Antonio, there has been speculation that Leonard, who is eligible for free agency in 2019, may not be a Spur for the long term. However, he pushed back against that idea as well, according to Orsborn. Asked today if he wanted to finish his career with the franchise, Leonard replied, “Yeah. For sure.”

Of course, if Leonard were to leave San Antonio next year, he wouldn’t be the first player to change teams after expressing a desire to stay. Still, given how quiet he has been for most of this season as rumors and speculation swirled around him, Leonard’s comments today should allow Spurs fans to breathe a little easier.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Johnson, Gasol

Kawhi Leonard‘s health has cast doubt on him returning this season, and his future with the Jordan Brand is also unclear, sources tell ESPN’s Michael C. Wright and Ramona Shelburne. Leonard and Nike were reportedly “very close” to a four-year, $20MM extension but his representatives felt the offer was not reflective of his recent success and standing within the league.

Leonard, 26, has racked up droves of impressive accolades during his seven-year NBA career. He is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, two-time All-Star, NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, and part of the Spurs‘ 2014 championship team. Leonard pockets south of $500K annually on his current deal and his representatives want a deal that reflects the aforementioned accomplishments.

Leonard’s current agreement expires on October 1, but Nike has the option of matching any deal he receives from another brand. Injuries have limited Leonard to just nine games this season but there is optimism he may return later this month.

Check out other Southwest Division notes below:

  • Joe Johnson came to the Rockets as a veteran who can score and provide leadership as the team prepares for the postseason. Injuries have allowed Johnson to see more minutes and he is thrilled to show off his versatility, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. “As someone who came into the league as a one, two and three, playing the four, I can do things some guys are not as comfortable with,” Johnson said. “We just look to make plays. That’s what it’s about.”
  • Marc Gasol shares an idealist and pure take on the NBA and recent tanking debate — while the Grizzlies are in the midst of a 13-game losing streak, Chris Herrington of the Commercial Appeal relays. “Winning is what this is about. It’s not about somebody playing well, or getting your reps, or developing players. We’ve got a league for that. … This is the NBA, not the D League,” Gasol said.
  • Speaking of the Grizzlies’ losing streak, the team, sporting an 18-44 record, is playing its hardest, but each loss is taking its toll, Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal writes. “You’ve got a bunch of guys who are committed to doing the right thing. And there’s only so many moral victories that you can have,” Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “At the end of the day, this is results based but it hurts. And it hurts them because they’re giving so much. They’re competing so hard. You can’t tell me a guy that didn’t leave it all out there tonight. And circumstances are what they are. But like I said, you hurt for these guys. And you want them to be rewarded with a ‘W.’”

Kawhi Leonard Expected To Remain With Spurs Long-Term?

Rumors of friction between the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard developed over the star’s inability to play with his nagging quad injury, but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders hears that most of the rift is a result of a lack of communication.

Kyler adds that while the relationship is far from unrepairable, the two sides will need to talk things out once the season is over. The scribe hears that the team isn’t going to make the 2016/17 MVP candidate available in trades.

The Spurs have been “fairly open” with Leonard’s representatives about their willingness to let the situation take its course, though the front office would obviously prefer Leonard to return and get re-acclimated with the team. San Antonio’s medical staff had put the small forward on a program earlier in the season and the doctors cleared him to play at one point. However, Leonard remained in pain and sought additional opinions, which irked the franchise.

Leonard remains in pain today, but he wants nothing more than to put this whole situation behind him and return to the floor. San Antonio entered the night with a record of 36-26, good for fifth in the Western Conference. The team appears to be in decent position to make the postseason, though a deep run will undoubtedly depend on the availability of Leonard and recently injured LaMarcus Aldridge.

The small forward will be a free agent during the summer of 2019, but this offseason, he’ll be eligible for the Designated Veteran Player Exception, a vehicle that could net him in the neighborhood of $250MM.

Sources tell Kyler that Leonard’s situation rivals Aldridge’s situation this past offseason, when a sitdown between coach Gregg Popovich and the power forward was needed to hash out some differences. The open communication led to an extension for Aldridge and the sense around the league is that this will be the second offseason in a row where the Spurs sit down to meet with one of their top players and come away signing him to a long-term pact.