Report: Kawhi Leonard planned to join Spurs if Gregg Popovich returned from grieving

By David Kenyon

The relationship between Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs has been and will be a major NBA discussion, but one detail in a recent report shows the respect he has for Gregg Popovich.

In a lengthy story by Michael C. Wright and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, it was revealed that Leonard planned to make an appearance with the Spurs as a show of support for Popovich, whose wife Erin died during the NBA playoffs.

Leonard had intended to leave New York, join the team and support Popovich if he coached one of the games after his wife’s death, according to sources close to both men. When Popovich did not return, Leonard decided to stay and train. But the sentiment was an indication of the strength of their bond.

Popovich missed the final three games of the first-round series against the Golden State Warriors. Assistant coach Ettore Messina oversaw San Antonio, which managed a victory in Game 4 to avoid a sweep.

Leonard played in only nine contests all season due to a complicated, complex injury. Both the handling, fallout and status of the situation is covered thoroughly in the reporting, but the tidbit about Leonard’s potential return is encouraging for the Spurs.

Over the offseason, trade rumors will fly. Leonard, an enormously valuable piece, may or may not be frustrated enough with the organization to request a move. While that’s not certain, it’s a possibility.

If the bond between Leonard and Popovich is strong, though, that could be key to keeping the superstar in San Antonio.