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The San Antonio Spurs are ready for Kawhi Leonard to return.
The Spurs held a players-only meeting after their win over the Minnesota Timberwolves last weekend to try to get Leonard to return to the starting lineup, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, in order to help the team in its push for the playoffs.
Wojnarowski said that the “tense and emotional” meeting was led by Tony Parker, and featured several players speaking up to express “frustration and confusion over a growing divide” between Leonard and the Spurs. Leonard, though, insisted he had his reasons for missing most of the season with a right quad injury.
However, Spurs forward Danny Green disputed the ESPN report almost immediately on Twitter.
Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News painted a different picture than Wojnarowski, too. Young reported that the meeting “wasn’t tense,” and that Leonard was simply “caught off guard by the meeting.”
Young also said that Leonard received support from some of his teammates in the meeting — which only lasted five to 10 minutes — who urged him not to return until he’s fully ready.
Leonard has not played in a game since Jan. 13, and has only played in nine games this season. While the 26-year-old has impressed coaches and teammates in workouts — which he resumed on Feb. 27 — and has attempted to make his return multiple times in recent weeks, Leonard has backed down each time.
The Spurs currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference standings with just 11 games left in the regular season. Though many on the team are now doubting that the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year and 2014 NBA Finals MVP will play again at all this year.
“He is not coming back,” guard Manu Ginobili said. “For me, he’s not coming back because it’s not helping (to think he will return). We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys made us fall for it. But we have to think that he’s not coming back, that we are who we are, and that we got to fight without him. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he is ready for the jump ball.”
Leonard is eligible for a $200 million contract extension this summer and for free agency in 2019.
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