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Pop’s words show some kind of rift with Kawhi Leonard is likely

Pop seems none-too-pleased that his injured star is in New York, not California supporting his teammates.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Most Spurs fans have accepted that Kawhi Leonard will not play again this season. Even though his sister recently claimed on Instagram that he still wants to return, the odds are already pretty slim that the Spurs will beat the Warriors — and if they don’t, he will be out of time to return anyway.

To that end, most fans are in agreement that it’s odd (or a somewhat stronger term) for him to not be with his team supporting their postseason campaign, but rather continuing his rehab with his medical team in New York. This season seems destined to end in April for the Spurs, which would still give Leonard six more months to get well, so why not come back and at least be there for his teammates and show them he still cares?

Gregg Popovich, who is presumably tired of answering questions about his star player when he clearly has no answers, might be thinking the same thing. When asked again if Leonard will return, this was his answer:

Kawhi and his group — that’s some subtly harsh wordage right there.

Maybe Pop is just being brutally honest, but even so — that’s a seriously passive-aggressive approach that’s yet another item pointing to the rumor we’ve all been hoping was just media sensationalism: that there really is a rift, or at least some amount of disconnect, between Leonard and the Spurs. We may never get an straight answer from anyone, but Leonard is continuing to do himself no favors by being invisible, out of touch, and away from his team -- and in their greatest hour of need.

If he can’t go by Game 3, which is this upcoming Thursday, then there is likely no point in him returning at all because a loss there will likely spell the beginning of the end for this iteration of the Spurs. The least he could do is to hang with his teammates instead of staying on the other side of the country on what is becoming a more and more fruitless endeavor to return before this season ends. Its not good for him, his brand or his value going forward.