The San Antonio Spurs limped into the playoffs, are down 0-2 to the Golden State Warriors, and are playing without their best player in Kawhi Leonard, who continues to sit out with an injured quad. Depending on what you believe, Leonard has reportedly been cleared to play by team doctors, but is choosing to stay on the sidelines for reasons that remain unclear. Regardless, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich sounds a bit frustrated.
Popovich wouldn’t even answer questions about Leonard’s availability before the season started, telling reporters to ask Leonard (and “his team”) directly instead. After another loss in Game 2, Popovich didn’t speak directly about Leonard not being available, but certainly seemed to send subtle jabs in that direction while talking about his other players, like this section about LaMarcus Aldridge.
“LaMarcus has been a monster all year long.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 17, 2018
“He’s led our team at both ends of the floor.”
“He doesn’t complain about a darn thing out on the court, he just plays through everything.”
“I can’t imagine being more proud of a player, as far as playing through adversity and being there for his teammates, night after night after night.”
On the surface, those comments might just be glowing praise for the Spurs best player still on the court. If you read between the lines, though, you may wonder if Popovich is pointing out the things that Leonard doesn’t do (“play through everything” and “being there for his teammates”) in his praise for Aldridge.
Alridge can opt of the final year of his Spurs contract this summer, and will almost certainly do so. The changes of him returning to San Antonio appear to be somewhere between “zero” and “no chance in hell.”