Blogtable: Does it make sense for Kawhi Leonard to come back now?
Each week, we ask our scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
From NBA.com Staff
* * *
Looking at the San Antonio Spurs’ remaining schedule, does it even make sense to bring Kawhi Leonard back now? Or is this team lottery bound, regardless of Leonard’s status?
* * *
David Aldridge: It looks bleak, to be sure. According to Tankathon, the Spurs have the second-toughest schedule remaining in the league. But when you have the tradition of San Antonio, you don’t fold, even when you don’t have a team good enough to win a title, as certainly seems the case this season. The Spurs play it out, no matter what. It’s one of the things I most admire about the franchise; like the Utah Jazz teams of the Jerry Sloan era, it can accept losing in the playoffs if the team has done all it could do in a given year. So the Spurs would, and should, play Leonard down the stretch. He is the team’s best player and his presence will help Dejounte Murray immensely, if nothing else. And, unfortunately, you never know what can happen; every team, including the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, is one ACL away from disaster.
Steve Aschburner: Certainly they should bring Kawhi back if he’s deemed to be healthy. This is a franchise that has played for the postseason for a long time, and that’s still intact, given how closely the lower seeds are grouped in the West. Is there really that much difference between coach Gregg Popovich giving players occasional nights off vs. Leonard getting a bunch of weeks and, OK, months off to rest, rehab and recuperate? Who knows, this might start a new trend of star players being kept in bubble wrap until April, with the first 82 games devalued to exhibition level.
Shaun Powell: If you’re suggesting the Spurs tank, let history show that the franchise was accused of doing so twice, and came away with David Robinson and Tim Duncan. We all know what happened after that. The foundation of the respected franchise is built on getting those Hall of Famers. That said, it would go against everything the Spurs stand for today to sit a player, much less their star, for the sake of the lottery. If he’s healthy, he should play. And they’d make the playoffs if he did.
John Schuhmann: First of all, I would ignore the standings in regard to the decision about Leonard. If he’s healthy and isn’t risking further damage by playing, then he should play, because the Spurs certainly aren’t going to be mathematically eliminated any time soon. And if he gets the green light, the Spurs should hit the gas. They play 12 of their final 14 games against teams with winning records (and another against the spoiler Los Angeles Lakers), but they can beat good teams when healthy and a 21st straight trip to the playoffs is worth playing for. Right now, they’re tied for eighth place with the Jazz, who they will play in San Antonio next week. So they control their own destiny and folding would be silly.
Sekou Smith: I don’t believe in using the “T” word, not even hypothetically, after seeing that fine the league handed down to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. But I do not believe all is lost in San Antonio just yet. I also believe in Kawhi Leonard and the impact he would have on the Spurs down the stretch of this season. He should definitely play if he’s healthy enough to do so. Then we can let things play out in whatever way basketball’s higher powers decide. That said, if there is one organization I’d ride with at lottery time it’s the Spurs. Sure, they are rarely in that space. But their success rate is fantastic (see David Robinson and Tim Duncan). But chasing ping pong balls goes against every competitive fiber of my being. I cannot go there — not even in theory.