With things relatively quiet on the Kawhi Leonard front over the last few weeks, attention has turned to next week’s Team USA mini-camp as the next potential milestone, which would allow teams around the league to see the player take the court while reuniting him with head coach Gregg Popovich. Per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, the Spurs forward is currently leaning towards appearing at the workout sessions, set to run in Las Vegas from July 25-27:
“Among NBA teams and USA Basketball officials, there is a belief that Leonard wants to participate in the camp - but could be dissuaded based on ancillary concerns.”
Doing so could have an effect on whatever trade talks are being had right now between the Spurs and Leonard suitors. In the least, it would begin to answer questions around the league surrounding the status of Leonard’s quad, even if, as the article notes, it won’t give a real idea of his ability to return to elite form next season.
The piece slightly tempers fans’ hopes that a reunion of Leonard and Pop could lead to meaningful one-on-one time and, perhaps, spark a reconciliation. After all, it’s never appeared that the existing rift has much to do with the player-coach relationship.
“The sheer volume of players (35) and coaches (nine) in attendance spares Popovich and Leonard the need to interact much - if at all - in these semi-public workout sessions. Nevertheless, there’s still a level of intrigue surrounding Popovich and Leonard in this setting and that could create the kind of media frenzy that Leonard disdains and could seek to avoid.”
As always, Leonard’s mindset through all this remains mostly a mystery, although Shelburne and Woj do offer a hint of how he might be approaching this situation.
“Leonard holds some enthusiasm for showcasing his revitalized health in the wake of the quad injury that has been at the center of discord between the Spurs and him, sources said. The question being debated, sources said, is whether participating in the Team USA camp will ignite trade talks that deliver him to his preferred destination -- the Los Angeles Lakers -- or give the Spurs more cause to hold onto Leonard and push him to report to training camp in September.”
We’ll continue to wait and see how things develop. At least now, we have a tangible date in the near future to look ahead to.