It’s very strange having a San Antonio Spurs season filled with what the NBA world calls drama concerning its biggest stars.
Perhaps it was destiny as it all began when the season got off on an awkward foot, what with LaMarcus Aldridge asking Gregg Popovich to trade him away last summer.
— Stadium (@Stadium) January 12, 2018
Pop noted that this was a first for him in his storied career, and he took it in stride. He saw it as an opportunity to see what he could do differently. He adapted, and he did it masterfully.
Popovich has seemingly reached another first. There is, however true it is, public discussion of dissension between his franchise and their most important player.
ESPN reporting with me, @mikecwright and @ZachLowe_NBA: Months of discord centering on treatment, rehab and timetables for return have created chilling impact on Kawhi Leonard/Spurs relationship. GM RC Buford rejects reporting of turbulence. https://t.co/uFE0dEpSgl
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 22, 2018
— First Take (@FirstTake) January 23, 2018
This is uncommon for the San Antonio Spurs. These are uncharted waters for them. This is, truthfully, life for the average NBA fan, though.
The Spurs have never been the average, though. There’s a system and a foundation of corporate knowledge. San Antonio has always lived above the rim so to speak, never having to deal with problems that hinder the “average” franchises.
So much of this is true because of the aforementioned foundation. It’s undeniable that Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, name whoever you want, all built a culture that exists as strong as ever today.
What if the culture isn’t for everybody, though?
What if LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t fit the culture as it stood? He obviously didn’t, asking to no longer be a part of it, and Popovich did as Popovich does and everything worked out.
Well, what if the culture as it was is no longer sufficient for Kawhi Leonard? What if he’s a little bit more like the average NBA superstar of his generation and the home cooking that’s fed countless Spurs before him doesn’t taste the same anymore?
Pop wants to make Kawhi Leonard's relationship with the team very clear. pic.twitter.com/VqW2SpUn4l
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 24, 2018
What if things are different now? If Pop is acting as if things are the same, and Kawhi is different, that would explain the misalignment being reported.
This isn’t an indictment against the Spurs, Pop, or Kawhi, it’s simply the reality of the NBA. It’s the reality of sports, hell it’s the reality of life in general.
Things change. People change. We all learn and grow and become different people. As shocking as it is to consider that Kawhi Leonard would be the one to buck the system, at some point somebody had to, right?
It seems fair to assume if the rumors are true, that Pop will handle this like he always has. He’ll assess, adjust, and move on. It’s interesting to note that he’s having to do so much adjusting these days, especially with his more prominent players, and that’s perhaps the most telling sign of all.
The NBA is a different place these days, maybe San Antonio is more like it than anyone realized.