AT&T CENTER – The San Antonio Spurs have been in the media headlines over the last 48 hours after multiple outlets have reported that there’s been some disconnect between the Spurs and their franchise cornerstone player Kawhi Leonard.
In his pregame press conference before the Spurs faced the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday evening, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich was asked about some of the rumors revolving around Leonard and he responded to the questions.
“It’s no different than it has been for all the time he’s been here,” said Popovich of the Spurs’ relationship with Leonard.
When asked about Leonard getting a second medical opinion on his quad injury, Popovich had this to say: “Lots of players get second opinions. Lots of players have trainers and second opinions are good. That doesn’t indicate anything except due diligence to make sure you’re doing everything you can to get a player back. Nobody wants to come back more than Kawhi Leonard. I think I’m number two. His teammates want him back, everybody wants him back. He’s a competitor. You know, he wasn’t Kawhi Leonard when he first arrived you know, the one you know now. So that shows you how much work he’s put in to get here. He certainly doesn’t want to be missing games. So, it’s frustrating for everybody. For somebody to come up with something about him and his teammates is just silly.”
Popovich was asked if this has been a sort of soap opera that the Spurs aren’t typically used to.
“I really don’t know why you say it’s a soap opera. Some people wrote some articles. I understand it. A soap opera? It’s a soap opera if we talk about it every day I guess? I don’t get it. We don’t talk about it. There’s nothing to talk about other than what we’ve already said. The rehab has gone slower than we expected. We wish it would have gone quickly and if we’re going to err, as we have in the past, we’re going to do it on the conservative side. We kept Timmy Duncan out of a playoff one year because of a knee, because we couldn’t play him. So, I don’t see this as anything different than we’ve done with any other player. But some people for some reason want to do that, but that’s ok. It doesn’t affect our team or me, or anybody else.”
On a different note, in the Spurs’ last game against the Indiana Pacers Sunday, Dejounte Murray started at the point guard. Tony Parker came off the bench and after the game, Parker revealed that Popovich told him “it was time” for him to allow Murray to start as the Spurs head into the future.
Popovich discussed the move of handing the starting point guard role to Murray.
“Tony understands what’s best for the basketball team. He’s a character guy. He knows that at this stage of his career being a mentor is really important and he’s still going to be an important guy in what we do. But, Dejounte’s a young talent and we’re going to find out exactly what we have there. So, it’s time. Those are the decisions you make. I made that decision a few years back when Tony was 19 and we gave him the ball. So, Tony’s handled it fantastically well.”
Popovich said Murray’s length gives the Spurs another element on defense and his speed and quickness brings more pace to the team when he’s on the floor.