Kawhi Leonard’s season may not be over after all.
Sources told ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the two-time Defensive Player of the Year has been medically cleared to resume basketball activities, but the onus is on him to decide when or if he returns. And while speaking with reporters, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich seemed to be under the impression Leonard wouldn’t play again this year, thereby suggesting there may be trouble in paradise.
According to the San Antonio Express-News‘ Jabari Young, however, the issue isn’t so cut and dry, and Leonard actually does hope to play again this year:
Popovich shut down any suggestion that Leonard would be out for the season last month. When asked Wednesday if the team was ready to change Leonard’s status after his comments, Popovich responded: “I’m ready to say what I just said.”
Sources tell the San Antonio Express-News Leonard was rehabbing in New Jersey over the All-Star break. If his leg were to improve, Leonard still hopes to attempt a comeback next month; hence Popovich kept the door slightly open for a return while appearing skeptical.
This latest lead may be thin, but it’s something for the Spurs and their fans to hang their hats on. Not only is the thought of a rift between Leonard and the organization too unsettling to contemplate when he’s a free agent in 2019 (player option), but this team doesn’t have a chance at making noise beyond the first round without him.
Is it possible, perhaps, the Spurs are playing this one so close to the vest that they actually hope Leonard will return yet have no desire to intimate as much? Possibly. If any team has the organizational wherewithal to stage such an extensive misdirect, it’s them. But this all rests on Leonard playing again before 2017-18 is out. If he doesn’t, you can bet the rumors and speculation will continue to swirl.