April 14, 2018

#Spurs gone? And then #Kawhi gone?
Yes and hopefully yes

Kawhi Leonard: Headed
out of Dodge, or rather,
out of San Antone?
Game 1 of the first round of the NBA playoffs showed the San Antonio Spurs have little chance of beating the Golden State Warriors without Kawhi Leonard.

It also showed an attitude difference.

Leonard, out most of the year with a quad tendon problem — playing briefly after a conservative, quite conservative, Spurs medical staff cleared him, then sitting himself for the rest of the season — couldn't even be bothered to come to Oakland to be with the rest of ... what might or might not be his team right now, mentally, and may or may not be his team physically next season. That's even as Tony Parker, with a seemingly worse quad tendon injury, healed even quicker and without physical — or psychological — complications.

Steph Curry, with an MCL knee problem, was on the Dubs' bench. Kawhi was absent. (And, no, Kawhi wasn't even back in San Antonio; he's basically been separate from the team for much of the latter part of the year, though not all, since benching himself.) Marc Spears at The Undefeated is also asking "Where's Kawhi?" And

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich admits the injury has been perplexing. And, on this ESPN video, Amir Elhassan says he had an injury misdiagnosed a couple of years ago. This Twitterer talks more about that 2012 injury.

Let's talk more about this. (Click the link above for two more pages of talk.)

First, his own doctors obviously cleared him for the nine games earlier this season, otherwise, he wouldn't have played then, skippy.

Second, if he's not going to play this postseason at all, even needing to be in pre-pre-season shape for next preseason? That's four months away. He could be with the team on the bench, or first row courtside, for the playoffs.

Third, that said, his 2012 injury is connected to some degree to this year's by type, but on the other leg.

On the other hand, per Skippy the wonder Twitterer, I don't recall a massive brouhaha over him being misdiagnosed, though it eventually was rediagnosed as tendinopathy, which is more serious than tendonitis.

Meanwhile, if we're going to Reddit, skippy the wonder Twitterer, here's the Spurs Reddit with some better discussion, IMO.

Further sidebar: Just last August, the Saints fired two orthopedists who worked for both them and the Pelicans after a player misdiagnosis. If Pops and Buford thought their medical staff had done a similar screw-up, they'd be firing people too.

But, Kawhi's teamside absence indicates to me that Woj's earlier hints of discord are true – and cut both ways. Or three ways. Per Manu Ginobili's comments in February, I think a fair chunk of the team, not just Pops and R.C. Buford, have some issues.

Pops has now officially written him off for the playoffs, it seems. And, in video at that link, he bluntly, in best Pops style, refuses to answer a question about Kawhi's value as moral support being on the bench.

And, chocolate donut Twitter's Marcus Johnson has shown he's even more an idiot as a basketball commenter than he is a Hillbot. He saluted Kawhi:
Yep, Hillbot dumb on basketball too.

Hey, Marcus? Spurs doctors pushed nothing. Note the "very conservative" above on hist treatment. (It also describes the likes of you as seen by the likes of me politically, so you should be able to get that.)

Now, back to Kawhi.

First, the current series. No Kawhi kills the Spurs offense, especially against a team like the Dubs. Patty Mills is the only guard fast and skilled enough to be a drive-and-kick player. Manu and TP aren't fast enough. Dejounte Murray and others aren't good enough.

Danny Green is the only good three-baller among the top seven of the rotation outside of Mills, and he's not the type who creates his own shot. That means a lot of slow dump-and-kick halfcourt sets revolving around Lamarcus Aldridge. Rudy Gay is an OK one, but he's past the point in his career at creating his own shot on a three-ball in general, and definitely not against a team like the Warriors.

Defensively, it's worse. The team has no great perimeter defenders. Kyle Anderson is decent inside. Aldridge is above average. Pau Gasol is near the end of the line. None of the three is fast on rotations, or fast enough to guard perimeter players on switches.

I'd be surprised if the Warriors don't sweep.

Second, to Kawhi not being in Oakland for moral support? If it is indeed possible he's out for the entire playoffs, then yet more rehabbing in New York, as he allegedly is doing, is unnecessary. Period. End of story.

There is no "I" in team is a cliché, yes, but with a grain or four of truth behind it.

The big tell? If he's not in the house at the AT&T Center for Game 3.

That leads to part the third ...

That said, will the Spurs move him in the offseason? D-Wade has already says yes, and says, Celtics the team. Who Boston would send back, I don't know. Would Pops and Buford want multiple draft choices that Danny Ainge has hoarded, maybe even throwing another player back, and go the rebuild route? Indeed, I said repeatedly on Twitter the last few weeks of the NBA season that the Spurs should tank and get in the lottery this year.

Basketball Reference says the Clips would be interested, but who do they have to offer back?

I mean, Parker is 35. Aldridge is 32. Green is 30. Manu of course is 40, and Pau is 37. If you trade Kawhi, then trade Aldridge as well for a team wanting a more traditional center, and see if you can get something for Gasol for a team wanting a backup stretch 4. Getcha a bunch of draft choices plus young players and get lucky if you can. And tank. Beyond that, if Elhassan is right and this injury is also worse than thought — but with the psychological side a factor there — don't the Spurs have to look to move him if they think he's got some permanent limitation?

From the Spurs POV, moving him might make sense psychologically, just as much as the Cavs moving Kyrie Irving. But, Kawhi will have to pass a physical AND look mentally committed to Boston or whomever for a trade to come off with any value to the Spurs.

At the same time, some people have commented on the Spurs' difficulty signing free agents, and the idea that no Kawhi would make that worse. Well, the Spurs have been good enough at retaining their own when getting lucky in the draft they haven't needed a lot of big-name free agents.

The real question is how free agents potentially coming to Alamo City would read the Kawhi-vs-et al showdown.

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