With the ongoing speculation that (a) Kawhi Leonard no longer wants to be a part of the Spurs organization, (b) Leonard wants to play near his home in Los Angeles, specifically with the Lakers, and (c) his trade value is in flux as LeBron James has reportedly agreed to a 4-year deal with those same Lakers, the major question has yet to be asked:
If Kawhi Leonard is traded, would he be the same player in another jersey? Or is the best version of Kawhi in a Spurs uniform?— Antonio Daniels (@adaniels33) July 2, 2018
There is a long-standing belief that the San Antonio Spurs can expand on any acquisition’s strengths; even more so than what was believed by other franchises upon first glance. Look at Marco Belinelli’s season winning the 3-point contest during the All-Star Weekend followed by his participation in 2014’s Beautiful Game. He hasn’t shown the same panache since his price tag went up and he switched jerseys multiple times.
Kawhi Leonard is the prime example of this emergence. There is no way to say with 100% certainty that Leonard would not have become the top tier player he once showed the league to be were he to have started in, say, Indiana. But most people with betting money would say Gregg Popovich, Chip Engelland, and a fiery spirit and dedication to the craft all melded together into the 2014 NBA Finals MVP.
Daniels’ question may be made moot by the sheer circumstance of Leoanrd’s choices. For example, if Kawhi Leonard does leave San Antonio for Los Angeles, his numbers will most likely drop as he plays Robin to LeBron James’ Batman. In addition, if Leonard is truly as pain-sensitive as he has shown himself to be, he could play a short stint before re-aggravating his quadriceps and prove no more ready to play in Los Angeles than in San Antonio. In many cases, it is believed a torn tendon which receives surgery and physical therapy (like Tony Parker) is better in the long run to a tendon that never fully heals.
If the tale that Leonard’s hesitation to play at the end of the season was in direct alignment with keeping him healthy long enough to reach his $219M pay day, refusing the super max and playing his last season with the Lakers (or anyone for that matter) could prove costly for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Any injury related to his quadriceps would quickly send his price tag into the Isaiah Thomas range, substituting the Brinks truck for pocket change.
There’s no telling how healthy Leonard truly is or if he has the capability to even speak for himself at this point. So we are left with questions, many unanswered questions. And Antonio Daniels has asked the one that will be debated repeatedly from the moment he hits the court in anything other than silver & black.
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