The Summer of Kawhi is here, which means until Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs come to some kind of mutual agreement — whatever that may be — rumors will continue to swirl about. Some might make sense, and others may seem completely unfounded. File this latest “rumor” under the latter group.
According to an article from the NY Daily News, Leonard will want Gregg Popovich to “tweak some things” before he considers signing a contract extension. What kinds of things, you may ask? For starters, according to one anonymous rival exec:
“From what I understand, he wants (Gregg) Popovich to lighten up a little with practice and tweak some things. The Spurs may not want to change their ways, but this is Kawhi Leonard we’re talking about.”
Let’s try to wrap our heads around this for a minute: a known gym rat with a reputation for working out all summer and staying hours after practice during the season (and possibly by doing so inadvertently caused a quad injury that is mostly associated with overuse) wants the Spurs to either practice less or at least lighten up on the workout load?
And that’s not the only way this doesn’t add up. For starters, let’s go back to the summer of 2014 when the Spurs had just won their most recent championship, and the Larry O’Brien trophy was jettisoning around the world to all the players who wanted to show it off to their home towns/nations. Some had parades, others had autograph ceremonies and interviews, but when the trophy reached San Diego:
“I didn’t have any time to do anything with it,” Leonard explained. “My workout schedule is crazy.”
Not exactly the image of a player who wants lighter practices, and considering Leonard’s goal remains to be the best player he can be (hence why he likely didn’t want to risk further damage to his quad this season), it’s hard to imagine lightening up on Spurs practices would accomplish that. If anything, he needs to lighten up on his own workout regimine.
Speaking of Spurs practices, it’s also of note that once the season really gets going, the Spurs (or any NBA team) don’t practice that often or that hard (with a few exceptions, of course). Not only that, but Pop is notorious for not overworking his players, almost to a fault, and especially his superstars. If at any time Leonard went to Pop and told him he feels it would be beneficial if he took it easy in practice, there’s little doubt Pop would oblige.
Finally, let’s go back to the main source of this rumor: an unnamed NBA exec who spoke directly with a New York paper, and the article goes directly from Leonard wanting “tweaks” to what the Knicks could offer to acquire him and how much he has enjoyed his time rehabbing in the Big Apple. It can’t be said with absolute certainty, but it’s not too hard to image what team that exec might be affiliated with.
Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express News probably put it the best:
This isn't about that report specifically, but something to consider over the next couple of months: When you see "league sources" or "NBA execs" weighing in on Kawhi, think of their motivation for doing so.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) April 26, 2018
There is little doubt that Pop and Leonard have some things to work out; that much is not in question. It wouldn’t even be surprising if Leonard does in fact have some of his own recommendations that would make things a little better because who doesn’t? As much as I love my job, if approached about any “tweaks” I’d make I’d have a suggestion or two because that’s life. (Not this job, I love it too much. I’m talking about my real world job.)
However, as mentioned above the source and motivation for some of these rumors should also be taken into account (he was just seen in New York wearing Spurs gear, after all) and sometimes things just don’t add up no matter how hard you try to prove it one way or the other.
Pop and Leonard will have a meeting, and he will reportedly return to San Antonio for exit interviews, but of all the things they need figure out, “lightening up” in practice probably isn’t one of them.