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#pounditTuesday, December 7, 2021

Report: Kawhi Leonard’s injury rehab causing strained relationship with Spurs

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard has endured an extremely frustrating season with the San Antonio Spurs this year because of a nagging leg injury, and the way the situation is being handled has reportedly become a source of tension between the star forward and the team.

ESPN is reporting that Leonard’s treatments, rehab and timetables for return from his right quadriceps injury have “had a chilling impact” on his relationship with the Spurs’ front office and coaching staff. Sources told ESPN that Leonard and his camp have been “distant” and “disconnected” from the organization as he tries to make his way back from the injury.

Spurs general manager RC Buford refuted the report.

“There is no issue between the Spurs organization and Kawhi,” Buford told ESPN. “From Day 1 all parties have worked together to find the best solutions to his injury. This has been difficult for everyone. It’s been difficult for Kawhi. He’s an elite level player. It’s been difficult for the team, because they want to play with a great teammate. And it’s been difficult for our staff. Historically we’ve been able to successfully manage injuries. This rehab hasn’t been simple and it hasn’t gone in a linear fashion.”

Leonard has played in just nine games this season. He missed a large portion of the first part of the season before returning, but the Spurs announced last week that he has been shut down indefinitely because of the same quad injury that held him out before. Leonard reportedly told the Spurs that he was not comfortable playing through the injury.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was initially optimistic about Leonard’s injury when the team disclosed it on Sept. 30, but he later expressed some frustration over it. Popovich said the strangest thing about Leonard’s slow recovery is that Tony Parker suffered a similar injury in the Western Conference playoffs last May that was actually worse, as Parker ruptured his left quadriceps tendon.

Buford told ESPN that Leonard has worked with the same outside tendon experts as Parker, but the results have not been the same.

“We sought outside expertise with the best tendon experts in the world,” he said. “It worked beautifully for Tony (Parker) but it hasn’t worked the same for Kawhi.”

Leonard recently suffered a new injury that was unrelated to his quad issue, though it does not sound like that is part of the problem. The Spurs have managed to go 30-18 this season while not having their best player for most games, but it remains to be seen if that is sustainable.

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