We’ve never played in a NBA game, but imagine that compromised vision would be even more of a hindrance against the greatest defenders in the world than it is while running pick-up at the local rec center. Recent play of the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard confirms that assumption. Struggling since his return from a preseason eye infection, the reigning Finals MVP says he’s still suffering the effects of his illness.
“My right eye, the vision’s not all the way back yet,” Leonard said. “Hopefully I can heal up soon. I’ve just got to keep competing so I can get used to it and get my rhythm going…”
“It just has to run its course,” Leonard said. The doctor (team eye specialist Dr. Ed Rashid) said there were some military guys who had it for weeks and some for months.”
Asked if he believed he could play through his eye condition, Leonard said: “I have to. That’s what I’m doing now. I can’t wait and sit on the sidelines anymore just wasting games. It might not ever clear up until summer, so I’m playing now.”
Leonard is averaging just 9.5 points on 9.8 shots since returning to the lineup on October 31 after missing San Antonio’s season-opener. He’s shooting a dreadful 30.8 percent from the field and managed only seven points on 2-11 shooting in the Spurs’ loss to the Houston Rockets as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili rested on the bench.
It bears mentioning that Leonard is making typically stellar contributions elsewhere, though. Despite taking 13 shots to get his 14 points in his team’s last-second loss to Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, the 23 year-old still corralled 14 rebounds and helped keep each member of the opposing backcourt to below-average shooting nights.
There’s no quick fix for a serious bout with pink eye. As Leonard says, he just has to keep playing while his sight lines slowly improve. But it must be awfully frustrating for a player of his caliber to be limited by something so seemingly trivial – especially considering that this is basically Leonard’s contract year.
And while it’s far too early to glean anything concrete from San Antonio’s early struggles this season, every win counts in the loaded Western Conference. If Leonard isn’t himself offensively for several weeks, the Spurs’ vaunted attack will surely suffer. There’s every reason to believe Gregg Popovich and company can compensate in other areas, but this complication is different than others they’ve overcome in the past.
It will just take adjustments and time for Leonard to play at the level to which we’re accustomed. Let’s see how he and his team react in the interim.
What do you think?
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