Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann – Getty Images
We can all put the rumors aside that there is turmoil between the San Antonio Spurs and their starting small forward Kawhi Leonard. The organization and Leonard failed to get a deal done before the October 31st deadline of reaching a contract extension for rookies drafted in the 2011 NBA draft. The 2014 Finals MVP wanted a max deal and the Spurs decided to decline his wishes. Leonard now becomes a restricted free agent next summer where any team can offer him a contract, but the San Antonio has the right match the offer.
Currently, Leonard and the Spurs have gotten off to a slow start this season, as the team sits at 3-3. Leonard was slowed down by an eye injury so far which led him to miss the season-opener. Even though he hasn’t admitted to it, the injury may still be affecting him. With the “Big Three” aging fast, Leonard will be leaned on more to carry the load during these regular season games. The 23-year-old shot 61 percent and averaged 17.8 points, six rebounds, two assists, one block, and a steal per game during the 2014 NBA Finals. He also played tough defense on LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.
This season Leonard only averages 12.8 points per game while shooting a surprising 38 percent from the field. Those stats are starting to question if the contract talks have affected his game, but Leonard made it clear that’s not the case. In a 89-85 win against the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night, Leonard scored a career high 28 points and Spurs coach commented on what transpired after the game.
“We ran more plays for him tonight than I ever have in his career,” Gregg Popovich explained. “That’s the plan. We’ve got to start giving him the ball. You know, he’s the future. I don’t think Timmy (Duncan) and Manu (Ginobili) are going to play any more than maybe six or seven more years. So we’ve got to let somebody else do something.”
Leonard also expressed how he feels about the situation. “I was never upset about (the extension),” he said. “I mean they explained to me what their deal is and why they didn’t do it yet. That’ll play out. I’m just here to play basketball and have fun and try to win another championship. If I think about that, then I’m not going to be the same player that I am and will be just out of it.”
Leonard goes on to say, “I don’t think I’m going anywhere. I mean they love me here. I like the organization, and if it was up to me, I want to finish out with one team like a lot of great players have done, to stay with one organization their whole career and just be loyal to that. You never know. We’ll see what happens next summer, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a Spurs jersey for my whole life.”
Well there you have it boys and girls, the Spurs will have Kawhi Leonard for his whole career; just like when they had David Robinson, then Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker. The phrase the rich get richer couldn’t be more true in this situation. Leonard currently makes a little over $3 million this year and he’s aiming to get $15 million with that max contract. His domination in the playoffs last year has probably proved that he’s earned it, but the Spurs have to keep in mind that usually they have their star players take pay cuts so they can have a well-rounded team from top to bottom. This is will be a major story of next offseason on how much Leonard will get, but for now it seems like the young and talented forward isn’t going anywhere.