Many thought it was curious to see Kawhi Leonard, who suffered a knee injury in the Clippers’ Western Conference semifinals series with Utah earlier this month, observing Thursday night’s Game 3 against the Suns from a Staples Center luxury suite instead of on the bench with his teammates. The superstar forward appears to be keeping his distance from the team, both literally and figuratively. That’s an ominous sign with Leonard potentially becoming a free agent this offseason (he has an opt-out clause in his contract).
Leonard’s divorce from the Spurs, who he won a championship with in 2014, was prompted by a disagreement he had with the team’s medical staff over a quad injury that limited him to just nine games during the 2017-18 season. It’s hard to know exactly what the famously aloof 29-year-old is thinking, though many, including FS1 personality Skip Bayless, see similarities between Leonard’s current situation in Los Angeles and the standoff that led to his departure from San Antonio three years ago.
“[It’s] San Antonio all over again,” said Bayless on Friday’s Undisputed, a show he co-hosts with former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe. “Kawhi Leonard is his own man. We know this. Once he gets a little sideways with medical staff, he’s going to pull away and he’s going to go to this doctor and this physical therapist away from the team.”
Bayless added that a “very good source” told him Leonard is “unhappy” with the Clippers medical team for “misdiagnosing” his injury, which the Fox Sports host believes will ultimately require surgery. “Why is it that the team keeps saying we’re not sure from game to game and they won’t rule him out? I think they’re just not communicating at all with him, so they’re not sure what’s going on.”
If Leonard does opt out of the final year of his three-year, $103-million contract, the two-time Finals MVP will immediately become the biggest name available in this year’s free-agent class. Facing a 3-1 series deficit, the shorthanded Clips will look to stave off elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals Monday night in Phoenix. With a win, the Suns, led by ex-Clipper Chris Paul, will advance to their first Finals since 1993.
LISTEN on the Audacy App
Sign Up and Follow Audacy Sports
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram