Kawhi Leonard missed more than a month earlier this season with quadriceps tendinitis, leaving the San Antonio Spurs without their top option at the small forward position and temporarily derailing what had been a strong start to the season for the second-year man out of San Diego State. He's reintegrated himself well over the past month, with the Spurs going 14-3 since his Dec. 21 return to the lineup, but late in Monday night's matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, he found himself once again sidelined with a leg injury ... and a pretty weird/gross one, at that.
Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News has the gory details:
Then there was the peculiar injury that forced Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard to leave the most tense portion of the game with 1:31 remaining. He suffered a gash on his kneecap when he fell to the court and encountered a nail sticking up from the hardwood.
“I just hit the hardwood on one of those nails, really hard,” said Leonard, who made two of the biggest plays of the period for the Spurs. “It busted my knee wide open.
“It kind of felt funny when I tried to explode up the court when we got the ball and I tried to cut to the basket, so I had to come out and see what was wrong before I injured it worse.”
Leonard sat out for the rest of the Spurs' 90-85 win over the Sixers, finishing with 16 points on 6 for 13 shooting, seven rebounds and two steals in 34 minutes. There's been no word yet Tuesday as to his availability for Wednesday night's home contest against the New Orleans Hornets.
First off: If what Leonard cut his knee on was, indeed, a loose nail, we're hoping the Spurs' medical staff gave the 21-year-old a tetanus shot; we'd hate to see the youngster develop a jaw-and-muscle-stiffness-inducing infection.
Secondly: It's kind of nuts that there'd be a loose nail jutting up out of a floorboard during an NBA game ... especially since, as SportsGrid's Dylan Murphy noted, the panels that comprise courts created by Connor Sports Flooring — which counts the Sixers among its NBA team clients — are reportedly "locked together via metal strips" rather than actually nailed down or together. Then again, maybe some detritus got left behind in the changeover from the hockey rink set up for the Philadelphia Flyers' home opener at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon to the basketball court for the Sixers' home game on Monday night — you know, a real "tape the string/nail (plumb bob) to the center/front of the backboard so that the nail hangs just slightly above the court surface" type of situation.
It's possible, we guess, and makes as much sense as the other potential explanations, which include Leonard being struck by a nail heaved with assassin-like precision from the stands by a Philadelphia sports fan or a piece of hot metal shrapnel dislodged from Andrew Bynum's dodgy anti-gravity treadmill. Whatever the actual cause of Leonard's knee injury, what's clear is that his head coach wasn't especially thrilled at how the sophomore handled it. From Josh Guyer at Spurs blog Pounding the Rock:
Unfortunately for Leonard, a play or two later at the 1:31 mark, he hit the floor, scraped his knee and intentionally fouled Jrue Holiday. The camera immediately panned to coach Pop, who had a stunned look on his face. Leonard hobbled over and met Popovich at half-court wincing, and you could read the astonished coach's lips mouth, "Kawhi, why?" [...]
Why would Popovich question Leonard's move? Players have been taught to intentionally foul or call timeout if they are injured. And then as the 76'ers in-bounded the ball, Leonard's face said it all: he knew he shouldn't have done that. The rule is that since the Spurs were over the foul limit, and the foul occurred away from the ball, the 76'ers would be awarded one free throw and possession.
Holiday made the freebie, cutting the San Antonio lead to 84-83, but Turner missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and Parker hit a top-of-the-key jumper on the Spurs' next trip up the court, extending a lead that San Antonio would hold through some tense closing seconds. As Guyer noted, the untimely intentional foul served as a teachable moment for Pop and his second-year swingman; after talking about it at half-court, "Popovich patted Leonard on the back and let him walk to the bench." The lesson here: If you're going to make a mistake that will be corrected by Pop, do yourself a favor and get hurt beforehand. It'll be easier on you in the long run.
Hat-tip to Rodger Sherman at SB Nation.