Gregg Popovich indicates confusion, disconnect between Kawhi Leonard's 'group' and the Spurs

As much as you want to give the San Antonio Spurs the benefit of the doubt, with all the equity they've built up over the past two decades, you have to admit that this Kawhi Leonard situation is worrisome, at the very least.

Leonard recently left the team for the second time this season to continue rehab on his injured quad in New York, and the Spurs have reportedly grown pessimistic that Leonard will return to the court at all this season. Earlier reports indicated that Leonard has been cleared medically by the Spurs, and that the onus is on him to decide when he's comfortable to take the court again.

On Sunday, before the Spurs' game against the Houston Rockets, head coach Gregg Popovich reiterated that idea, making reference to a lack of communication with Kawhi and his "group." Via the San Antonio Express-News:

"I don't know when he and his group are going to feel like they are ready to go," Popovich said before Sunday's game against Houston. "If I knew, he'd be here. When he and his group feel he's ready, then he'll be ready."

Two things stand out: 1) There is still no timetable for Leonard's return, and 2) It's a bit strange that Popovich, and presumably the Spurs organization, are not in constant communication regarding the health of their franchise superstar.

Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season with the quad injury, returned for nine games, and was then listed as out indefinitely to further rehab his injury.

Popovich's comments indicate that Leonard's mysterious "group" hold more influence on him than the Spurs, which could be the source of the contention that's been reported throughout the season. First there were reports that the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs was becoming strained, as Leonard was becoming "distant" and "disconnected" from the organization. Then, just a couple weeks ago, the Spurs reportedly held an "emotional" and "tense" team meeting in which players confronted Leonard about the divide he was creating within the team.

Popovich's comments on Sunday certainly support the assertion that there's a rift between the Spurs and their superstar, which not only makes you question the team's fate this season, but also the future of the franchise moving forward.

A former NBA Finals MVP who finished as an MVP finalist last season, Leonard is signed through next season, and has a player option for 2019-20 -- which he'll almost assuredly opt out of if he returns to his old form. If the relationship between Kawhi and the Spurs isn't mended, it might be in the organization's best interest to explore trade options so that they're not left destitute if Kawhi decides to look elsewhere after next season.

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