There was a lot that led to the Spurs’ deteriorating relationship with Kawhi Leonard over the course of last season. Much of it had to do directly with discrepancies between his camp and the team’s doctors about the nature and severity of his injury, along with a time-line for recovery.
The Spurs’ grew increasingly uneasy about Kawhi’s long rehabilitation process, with coach Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker, Danny Green, and others making comments in the media expressing their frustration and confusion and admitting the toll it had taken on the locker room.
His teammates even went so far as to stage an intervention, of sorts, to try and gain some clarity about the situation, which only exacerbated matters as Kawhi saw it as something of an ambush on their part. But the breaking point, apparently, was when Parker made the aforementioned comments about how he had a similar injury to Kawhi, except that it was significantly worse, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
“The last straw for him, I was told, was when Parker made those comments about how ‘my quad injury was a hundred times worse, and if you remember, shortly after, Kawhi Leonard left San Antonio, and he didn’t want to be a part of that media glare there and did not come back until the season was over with.”
When Kawhi requested a trade earlier this month, the initial reports indicated that the relationship had become irreparable, although the Spurs are still clinging to some shred of hope that they can mend fences and convince Kawhi to remain in San Antonio.
However, they face mounting pressure to make a deal or risk losing him for nothing after next season. The Lakers – who Kahwi has indicated are his preferred destination – have been aggressively pursing a deal with San Antonio as they try to simultaneously land both LeBron James and Paul George.
If the Lakers can swing a deal for Kawhi, that clearly makes them a much more attractive option, so it now depends on just how confident the Spurs are that they can repair the relationship or how much leverage they believe they still hold in trade negotiations.