The Kawhi Leonard saga in San Antonio has been one of the most bizarre stories in the NBA this season, with there being an apparent disconnect between the franchise and the superstar that isn’t even with the team while he rehabs.
As so many have pointed out, part of what makes the Leonard-Spurs situation so strange is that it involves a franchise that’s been a model of consistency and avoided almost any drama involving its star players over the years. From David Robinson to Tim Duncan to Tony Parker to Manu Ginobili and the early years of Kawhi’s ascendance to superstardom, San Antonio was a marvel of transitioning power on the floor and getting its top players to buy in to the system.
Now, that’s fracturing and it’s caused many to wonder if this is the end of the road for the Spurs dynasty, with many teams expected to call about Leonard’s availability this summer, including the Clippers who reportedly have plans to make a major push for the star forward. In the meantime, San Antonio appears headed for a quick exit from the postseason at the hands of the Warriors, and while that happens, the stories about the Leonard saga will only continue to pour out of that series.
The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears spoke with some in the Spurs locker room and front office about Kawhi’s strange situation, but also looked back at the very few instances of real, honest to goodness drama in San Antonio. The one that stuck out the most was about Avery Johnson trying to fight Malik Rose in the locker room after a loss before going on a rampage, breaking a TV, over his minutes being cut.
The Chicago Tribune reported in March 2000 that Spurs guard Avery Johnson was angering teammates with selfish complaining after being benched in several fourth quarters for Terry Porter, who was a better 3-point shooter. During a 92-81 Spurs loss at Cleveland on Feb. 15, 2000, Johnson and teammate Malik Rose argued over a defensive play when Cavaliers guard Andre Miller got a 3-point play.
After the game, a nude Johnson tried to slap Rose in front of his locker while on his way to the shower, a source told The Undefeated. Rose lunged forward to hit Johnson and slipped and fell after stepping into teammate Mario Elie’s bucket of ice. Rose was held back by teammates Felton Spencer and Jerome Kersey. Still nude, Johnson started pacing around the locker room, throwing stuff around and breaking a television while having words for Popovich, Robinson, Rose and Porter about the team no longer being his. The Spurs didn’t re-sign Johnson, although the franchise did retire his No. 6 jersey after he retired, and he instead signed with the Denver Nuggets.
This is certainly more in your face drama than what we’re seeing with regards to Kawhi, but it’s a pretty phenomenal story. It’s also the last time the Spurs really dealt with anything like that for well over a decade, which is truly incredible, as the next example Spears could find was the whole Stephen Jackson ordeal in 2013 when he and Pop butted heads.