Nobody wins when the family feuds.
After easily dispatching the Washington Wizards, Wednesday night ended with a report from Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News that mentioned during the last week, Spurs players had approached Kawhi Leonard about an update on his status.
There was no mention of a players-only meeting. Why? Because as Finger pointed out on Twitter, the meeting was mentioned to them as not being volatile or confrontational.
A mere 12 hours later, the trio of Adrian Wojnarowski, Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright came forth with a report of the players-only meeting, mentioning the tense and emotional nature of the meeting spearheaded by Tony Parker.
In between the whirlwind of the players-only meeting that took place last Saturday after the Spurs victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the reporting of the meeting on Thursday, two other headlines made the rounds: 1) San Antonio will reportedly offer Kawhi Leonard a maximum contract extension this summer, worth north of $200 million, and 2) Manu Ginobili said his mindset is of the one that Leonard won’t be back.
(Oh, and David Robinson mentioned that Doc Rivers hated him prior to Rivers arriving in San Antonio, but that’s another story.)
Usually, players-only meetings are the sprinkles on top of a feces sundae during a bad season. The only thing that’s worse is the vote of confidence from ownership to management when someone is rumored to be on the hot seat.
Except in San Antonio.
Players-only meetings aren’t something fans should fear with the Spurs culture and environment.
As Adam Silver once said, “The team’s ownership, management and collaborative culture, from top to bottom, are critical to its success…the basketball that they play represents the epitome of teamwork.”
That’s what Saturday’s players-only meeting was.
Sure, clamoring for the days of Tim Duncan’s leadership or for someone to become the vocal leader of this team like Avery Johnson once was is good and fine, but this team has never been about one voice.
From top to bottom, this organization thrives on the collective voice and input of everyone involved.
Saturday’s team meeting, and the reaction of players after the reported discord of said meeting, was players taking matters into their own hands as they’ve always done.
Everyone is frustrated that Leonard isn’t healthy. And until Leonard actually returns or speaks for himself, anonymous sources are the only thing filling the void.
But Danny Green and Brandon Paul going to Twitter to call a report incorrect doesn’t necessarily mean ESPN’s report is false. Those are teammates protecting their own and the organization.
A man that don’t take care of his family can’t be rich.
Likewise, if ESPN had gone the Express-News route and didn’t report on the players-only meeting, that doesn’t mean the meeting never took place.
The only facts we know is that Leonard is suffering from quadriceps tendinopathy in his right leg.
How the injury happened has been speculated about ad nauseam, but Leonard’s history of leg injuries, paired with the sprained ankle suffered last year in the playoffs, make for an understandable explanation.
There’s also the element of Leonard having his own doctors that must examine him and clear him before the Spurs could even bring him back.
While the anger and frustration between Leonard, his camp, his teammates, the organization, the media and the fans is warranted, it’s also becoming detrimental.
No one outside of Leonard and his doctors knows exactly what’s wrong with him. But the reports from those close to the team are all anyone has as a fanbase starved for answers sits in angst, shrouded in fear over the unknown.
Until the organization tells us otherwise, it’s wise for everyone to operate under Ginobili’s reality that Leonard’s season is over. Holding out hope and discussing his return helps no one, and the constant media cycle toeing the line between necessary information and attempting to crack the code of when Leonard will return is exhausting.
Meanwhile on the court, the Spurs once again look like the team we witnessed all season prior to February’s struggles.
San Antonio is currently tied for the longest active winning streak in the NBA at five games, and sits as the sixth seed in the West, just 2.5 games out of the third seed they occupied for a majority of the year.
The Spurs also have the sixth hardest schedule remaining, while the Denver Nuggets (1st), Oklahoma City Thunder (2nd), Los Angeles Clippers (7th), New Orleans Pelicans (8th) and Utah Jazz (9th) don’t have it much easier.
Saturday’s players-only meeting in San Antonio was a good old fashion family conversation to make sure everyone is on the same page while rumors permeate the almost impenetrable iron curtain of the Spurs organization.
Now that the meeting is over with, the Spurs can continue to conduct their operations as they always have, with Leonard’s quadriceps being the only thing keeping San Antonio from being basketball’s utopia.
Because this organization knows better than anyone that we all lose when the family feuds.