The season-long saga of Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs has caused much consternation among NBA types, and reached a crescendo this week when the two-time defensive player of the year reportedly expressed his desire to be traded away from San Antonio. Clearly, there’s frustration on all sides, even among Spurs alumni royalty. Bruce Bowen, who won three championships with the team, made that abundantly clear in a radio spot on Sirius XM NBA on Thursday night, saying of Leonard’s ongoing issues, “there’s nothing but excuses going on.”
“He’s getting bad advice,” Bowen said, per ESPN. “What you’re starting to see now is an individual given a certain amount of advice, and it’s not the right advice. Here it is: You were protected in San Antonio. You were able to come up during a time where you still could lean on Tim [Duncan] Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili].”
Bowen directly admonished Leonard, who has been rumored to prefer playing in Los Angeles, saying, “Look here: You got $18 million this year, and you think that they’re trying to rush you? You didn’t play for the most part a full season this year. And you’re the go-to guy, you’re the franchise and you want to say that they didn’t have your best interest at heart? Are you kidding me?”
The six-time all-defensive first teamer didn’t stop there, blasting Leonard for choosing to rehab the troublesome quad injury that kept him out of the Spurs lineup for all but nine games last season in New York instead of San Antonio and around the Spurs.
“As a player, if I’m a leader of a team, my team goes on the road in the playoffs, I’m with my guys . . . When that didn’t happen, it’s all kinds of sirens and alarm signals that says to me, ‘Is this person fully vested?’ . . . I don’t want to take on a player who’s not willing to support his guys during the course of their time needing him.”
Bowen also took the 2014 Finals MVP to task for choosing to stay almost completely silent as the season unfolded.
“Not one time has Kawhi come out and said anything to the effect of, ‘You know what, hey, I really enjoy being in San Antonio.’ Or, ‘I can’t stand what’s going on here in San Antonio,’ ” he said.
Bowen’s comments came on the heels of Spurs Hall of Fame center David Robinson also calling out Leonard, saying on ESPN morning show “Get Up!” on Thursday (via For The Win), “For Kawhi, it’s about growing up, right? You step into that responsibility, man, you’re the face of the franchise. You can’t ‘not’ talk, right? You’ve got to let people hear your voice, not somebody else’s.
“If you want to be a top two or three player in the league, you’ve got to be a leader. LeBron doesn’t sit around waiting for people to talk for him. LeBron gets out there and says ‘hey, this is my team, this is what’s happening.’ And I think that’s where Kawhi is.”
Between Bowen and Robinson’s pointed criticism and strong words on the topic from Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbili during the season, Leonard may well have checked out altogether regardless of his reported meeting with Coach Gregg Popovich earlier in the week, as well as General Manager R.C. Buford expressing his desire to keep Leonard in San Antonio. Buford also said that the Spurs “will explore all of our options,” which is in keeping with a Saturday report from USA Today’s Sam Amick that said San Antonio will only deal Leonard to an Eastern Conference team if it doesn’t hang on to him, thereby knocking the Lakers and Clippers out of the mix.
Leonard also becomes eligible for a five-year, $219 million extension from the Spurs on July 1. That might be the kind of money that heals bruised feelings.
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