We recently took a look at another Michael C. Wright masterpiece about the chain of events that led to GOAT guard Tony Parker’s departure from the Spurs. I mainly focused on Parker himself, from his quad injury to his decision to seek a rotation spot elsewhere — and no one offered a better situation for him than Charlotte — but as mentioned, there was plenty more to glean from that piece, and we’re doing that now.
Today’s focus: Parker broke his silence on his alleged role in the Kawhi Leonard debacle, essentially calling it B.S. Some may recall in an interview from March 23 last season, Parker referred to his own quad injury as “100 times worse” than Leonard’s while praising the Spurs medical staff who, deservedly or not, were under attack from all sides of the media due to Uncle Dennis’ running narrative that they had misdiagnosed his nephew’s quad — a notion I’ve called into question myself.
While ignoring the rest of his interview, the media took that “100 times worse” line from Parker and had a field day, representing it as an attack on Leonard. Leonard’s group did the same and used it as an excuse to justify him wanting to leave the Spurs. Following his return game to San Antonio, the Nephew said he would not address anything regarding his Spurs fallout until after he retired, but Parker opened up to Wright about the situation before his own reunion.
Parker’s injury made national news again that March when he was asked what advice he’d give Leonard, who was recovering from quadriceps tendinopathy. Parker says he was trying to tell his former teammate to stay positive throughout rehab, but the only part of the statement that resonated around the NBA was the point guard saying his injury was “100 times worse” than Leonard’s.
Parker regrets how that played out and finds it “unbelievable” some fans thought the comments played a role in Leonard’s desire to leave San Antonio.
”If people think that, then they’re really wrong,” Parker says, addressing the situation publicly for the first time. “Because I’m definitely not the reason. I was saying that in a positive way. The sad thing is everybody ran with this and put me as the bad guy, and I had no problem playing with Kawhi.
”I loved playing with him. I’m kind of the one who passed him the torch because it was kind of my team between 2008 and 2015, and I passed the torch to him. So it was sad people tried to put me against Kawhi. It never happened like that. People like [former Spur] Danny Green and other people that knew Kawhi and could talk to them, I told them to tell him the real story.”
Parker and Leonard never had a chance to hash out the issues one-on-one, and Leonard requested a trade in June.
The fact that Leonard never talked things over with Parker indicates that he really was living in his own bubble operated by his uncle, taking whatever narrative he was fed about the Spurs we thought he knew so well at face value. We know he and his group kept dodging meetings with Gregg Popovich heading into free agency, forcing him to travel cross country from New York to California to try and catch him, and it sounds like he did the same to Parker, who just wanted to set the record straight and likely apologize for the confusion.
From what can be gleaned from his words above, it sounds like he tried to reach out to Leonard but couldn’t get a hold of him, so he had to resort to asking those whom Leonard was more likely to answer, like Green, to do it for him with apparently little success.
Finally, back to Parker’s original point about how wonderful the Spurs medical staff was in helping him recover (I’d go back and re-read the rehab part of Wright’s article, it’s truly fascinating), it again begs the question if they really were at fault for Leonard’s quad trouble, or if this truly was all a fad by Uncle Dennis to get the ball rolling in his favor by deteriorating Leonard’s relationship with his team and get him moved to a bigger market.
A lot of this is still speculation, but if anyone still wants to blame Parker for playing a role in Leonard’s departure (and some in the media still do to try and paint the Spurs as a toxic environment), it’s time to stop. We already knew this was being blown out of proportion by Dennis and his cronies, and we now know that Leonard wouldn’t even talk to Parker.
I remain sorry that players like Tony and Danny had to move on, but every new reveal brings some relief that the drama of Leonard and his group is gone, and they’re someone else’s problem now.