Communication between Kawhi Leonard and some of his San Antonio Spurs teammates has become strained, with Spurs center Pau Gasol telling the Sacramento Bee's Ailene Voisin that Leonard communicates with some teammates but "leaves others in the dark."
Voisin initially reported Leonard wouldn't respond to the Spurs' messages for weeks at a time. According to Voisin, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will entertain trading Leonard if he's unable to improve Leonard's relationship with the franchise.
Leonard continues to be absent from the Spurs as he recovers from a quadriceps injury. The Vertical's Shams Charania reported Sunday the two-time All-Star is likely to miss the rest of the playoffs.
ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright reported in January that friction was growing between Leonard and the Spurs regarding his rehabilitation. Spurs general manager R.C. Buford downplayed any drama but acknowledged the situation "has been difficult for everyone."
Since then, things don't appear to have improved much. Many couldn't help but read into Popovich's comment about whether Leonard might return this postseason.
"You'll have to ask Kawhi and his group that question," the coach said Sunday, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.
Then came Popovich's praise of forward LaMarcus Aldridge after Aldridge scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in San Antonio's 116-101 Game 2 loss Monday to the Golden State Warriors in the teams' first-round Western Conference playoff series. NBA TV shared Popovich's comments:
ESPN's Rachel Nichols was among those who thought the legendary coach was offering a not-so-subtle criticism of Leonard:
To some extent, the end of the season can't come soon enough for San Antonio. That would at least slow the steady stream of questions about Leonard's injury. Popovich and the Spurs front office would also have more time to focus on resolving any issues with Leonard.
The coach said in January that Aldridge had asked to be traded last summer. The two then had frank discussions, and Aldridge became the Spurs' best player this season with Leonard limited to nine games.
Perhaps Popovich can have similar talks with Leonard to dissolve any tension.