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.

(Update: See my new post about possible trade destinations for Leonard if the Spurs pull the trigger and also see the poll at right to vote on that. That said, per some new verschnizzle from Woj, the relationship may not be broken after all.

And, as of the end of the NBA Finals, it became very clear that Woj's new verschnizzle was wrong.)

Update, June 15: Kawhi, according to Yahoo's Shams Charania, wants out.

Update, July 5: Via Yahoo, ESPN's Michael Wright said Kawhi hid from Spurs staff when they came to visit him in New York. Rather:
There was a point during his rehab process in New York that some of the Spurs brass went out to see him in New York. As soon as those guys arrived to the building, Kawhi’s people grabbed him and sequestered him to another part of the building. And so the Spurs’ people couldn’t even see him.
That's just chickenshit.  It's more chickenshit on the part of Kawhi's uncle Dennis Robertson, but it's chickenshit enough on the part of Kawhi.

In addition, per Zach Lowe, potential trade partners have no idea how healthy he is. And, in light of Haberstroh, have no idea if they would get to talk to Leonard and his team even if the Spurs allowed it! I'm kind of like one Spurs fan on that Deadspin link. Park Kawhi's ass on the bench. So bad that he rusts. Treat him like Joakim Noah.

Back to the original.

It also showed an attitude issue.

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 (account suspended, that's why you don't see the info now) 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.

(Update: At The Undefeated, Brando Simeo Starkley also tries to defend Kawhi. And also, in my opinion, fails.

First, the Tony Parker angle (settling aside the issue of whether or not TP was throwing passive-aggressive shade at Kawhi), He never was THAT fast, first, and second, he's got a lot more miles on older wheels. Hell, before his injury last year, during the regular season, I said Pops should bench him.

Second, the "Spurs cleared him to come back"? As I pointed out on my first point to Skippy the wonder Twitterer, so did Kawhi's own doctors/trainers/medical team.

Third, on the blame issue? If not Kawhi, maybe that team of his. Yes, he and/or they may be right to see Isaiah Thomas as a cautionary example.

We're still at the "not part of team for the playoffs" issue. Starkey doesn't address that, not even in the light of Pops' wife passing away.

For that matter, I don't know what Kawhi thinks. He hasn't touched his official Twitter account for 3 years. His "official" Instagram is by his sister and has just 11 posts.

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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