As the 2017-2018 NBA season winds down and the NBA playoff race heats up, San Antonio Spurs fans are starting to get upset with the fact that their superstar hasn’t made his presence felt much at all this year—mainly because he’s only played in nine games. A nagging quad injury has cost Leonard nearly the entire season, and while it was rumored that he could have made a comeback last Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans, he ended up getting shut down before that game as well.
All in all, it’s been a disappointing season for Leonard and the Spurs who are used to their comfortable slot on top of the NBA’s Western Conference. It has also been disappointing for the fans, who aren’t used to watching their team struggle. The Spurs are one of the most consistent franchises in all of professional sports over the past two decades, and fans have grown accustomed to 50-win seasons under head coach Gregg Popovich.
So, it’s easy to blame Kawhi. It’s easy to freak out. But the fans need to remember: The Spurs need Kawhi a lot more than he needs them. Blaming him for his injury and the time missed isn’t a good way to help him feel supported.
I understand the frustration. It’s easy to blame the player. That’s what Pelicans fans did for a while with Eric Gordon. We felt he didn’t want to be here and that he was just leeching off our cap space. So he left.
You don’t want Kawhi to leave, Spurs fans. Take the hint from Pau Gasol, take a deep breath, and let’s all just calm down.
“We humans tend to make a mistake of judging without knowing,” said Gasol. “So we don’t know exactly what Kawhi feels or has felt or has going on. I think you always have to honor people’s ethics and morals and desire to play and do what you are supposed to do. We want to have a positive mentality about it and not be critical. It’s not going to do any good [to be critical]. We hope at some point, coming down the stretch, all the work he has done individually and throughout the season pays off, and he can help us at the end. Hopefully, sooner rather than later because we don’t have much left and we are in a pretty tough position.”
While it might seem unusual for a team like the Spurs to be competing for their playoff lives this late in the race, they better get used to it if they can’t make Kawhi happy. This is what the team is like without him, so do you really want him to leave? Also, do you really think that a budding superstar is just willing giving up an entire year of his career for some time off?
“Again, we have all been patient and understanding,” said Gasol. “It must be hard for a guy that is as talented as Kawhi is to have a season like this and to be in the position he is in. All we can do is support him and encourage him and hope that at some point he comes back to help us.”
Kawhi is under contract next season, but he holds a $21 million player option in 2019. Of course, he can make a lot more than that from the Spurs or any other team, so he will most likely opt-out, but if fans want him to resign from San Antonio, they will need to check their attitudes quickly.