There once was a guy named Kawhi,
Who would stitch jumpers right in your eye,
But then he got hurt,
He also got curt,
And now he wants to say good bye.
When the Spurs traded George Hill for the 17th pick to the Pacers to acquire Kawhi Leonard, it looked like a lopsided deal. George Hill was the heir apparent to replace ofted injured Tony Parker and Kawhi…well…was just an athletic defender from San Diego St.
But after 6 years, it is obvious who got the better end of that deal.
Kawhi is one of the 5 best players in the league. He is the best defender out there and can nail 26+ points a game with little problem. He was a quiet superstar on the most unassuming successful franchise in all of sports; a perfect marriage.
Or so we thought.
Yes, Kawhi is hurt, this time a quad. And it pretty much sat him the entire season. But the question is; is it the quad that is sitting him down or the situation?
There have been rumors swirling around that Kawhi is upset with the Spurs and the fact they cannot lure a big named free agent. Kawhi wants to win and feels the Spurs are not in a position to make that happen. For anyone to think that, much less the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, is just plain foolish. Before Kawhi went down in the playoffs last season, the Spurs were up 25 points at Golden St. Now if he stayed healthy, I don’t know if they win the series, but at least they had a shot. So I don’t think it is about winning.
It is about prestige.
Kawhi, the quiet, hard-working, understated superstar may not be as humble or as likable as we may think. Whether it is him generating this maelstrom of discontent or his posse (as Popovich has alluded to), Kawhi is not looking good in all of this. Where is the loyalty to a team that took a risk on drafting him? Where is the appreciation for coaching him up to be the player that he is today? How many pro athletes succumb this easily to injury? The last one I remember was Jay Cutler in the 2010 NFC title game, and we all knew how that turned out.
Granted, no one can measure a man’s pain or level of injury but himself, but it is clear he is not champing at the bit to return. And that is a problem.
Sometimes athletes who play for one team who has a winning tradition their entire career do not how good they have it. They think this is easy and can happen anywhere. The reality is that winning is very hard, and if you are a part of something special, hold on to it like grim death.
My message to Kawhi is be careful what you wish for. Ask Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, or anyone who played for Larry Brown. Winning is hard, so when you are willing to risk a winning situation, prepare yourself to become a good loser.