Report: Kawhi Leonard's Relationship with Spurs Strained by Injury Rehab

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2018

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves the ball up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 112-80. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford denied reports the organization's relationship with forward Kawhi Leonard has been strained due to tension over his rehabilitation from a quad injury.

"There is no issue between the Spurs organization and Kawhi," Buford told ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright. "From Day 1 all parties have worked together to find the best solutions to his injury."

Dennis Robertson, Leonard's uncle, also denied the report of tension to Jabari Young of MySanAntonio.com.

"There is nothing true to that story," Robertson said. "Kawhi's camp and the Spurs are how they've always been—doing the right thing for the team and the right thing for Kawhi."

Wojnarowski and Wright reported that Leonard and his camp have been "distant" and "disconnected" from the Spurs as the All-Star has dealt with injury issues all season.

Leonard has played in only nine games this season. The Spurs announced last week he would be shut down for an "indefinite period" as he continues to rehab.

"This has been difficult for everyone," Buford said. "It's been difficult for Kawhi. He's an elite-level player. It's been difficult for the team, because they want to play with a great teammate. And it's been difficult for our staff. Historically we've been able to successfully manage injuries. This rehab hasn't been simple and it hasn't gone in a linear fashion."

Leonard averaged 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game when he was in the lineup. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich acknowledged Leonard was not feeling confident in his legs when he was on the floor, so the team opted to shut him down.

"You've got to be confident in your body to go out there and play at the level he's expected to play," Popovich said. "We didn't feel he was ready. His confidence level wasn't there. So we decided to give it some more time."

The Spurs have kept things afloat in the daunting West without Leonard, sitting 30-18 and in third place in the conference.

The ESPN.com report did not indicate how Leonard had been distant or non-communicative with the team.

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