Kawhi Leonard’s return to the Spurs is still a mystery, and there could be $219 million hanging in the balance

  • Kawhi Leonard’s chances of returning this season look dimmer following a report that he is away from the team getting further medical help on his quadriceps injury.
  • If Leonard does not return this season, it will raise questions about his future with the San Antonio Spurs.
  • Leonard is eligible for the $219 million “super-max” extension this offseason, but both sides may have some reservations after the odd events of this regular season.

With just over a week until the playoffs begin, the hopes of seeing Kawhi Leonard suit up for the San Antonio Spurs again this season seem to be dimming.

Over the weekend, ESPN reported that Leonard left the team and was in New York City with his advisors, getting more outside medical help on his lingering quadriceps injury. Leonard has played in just nine games this season because of the injury.

Leonard and the Spurs have reportedly become “divided” over his return, with the Spurs reportedly clearing Leonard to play and Leonard not feeling ready to get back on the court. In the meantime, veteran guard Tony Parker took a shot at Leonard, calling his quadriceps injury “one hundred times worse” yet he trusted the team doctors and returned. The Spurs recently held a players-only meeting that became tense and emotional at times as players asked Leonard about his injury woes and if he’ll be back.

With Leonard’s return looking more and more unlikely this season – even Gregg Popovich said there’d come a date where it’d be too late to welcome him back into the lineup – it raises questions about his future with the team, namely his contract status.

This summer, Leonard will be eligible for the five-year, $219 million “super-max” extension. Even a few months ago, it seemed like a no-brainer that the Spurs and Leonard would agree to this extension, but the odd events of the season have made that agreement less certain.

ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on “The Jump” nicely summed up some of the questions about whether Leonard and the Spurs would agree to the extension. Would the Spurs feel comfortable offering such a big contract to Leonard, even with some injury concerns? Would they offer it to him amid some questioning over whether he’s willfully holding himself out of action?

And from Leonard’s perspective, would he want to re-sign with a team that he currently does not seem to trust when it comes to medical issues? Would he want to commit, knowing he could not immediately ask for a trade? Conversely, who could turn down $219 million?

If the two sides don’t agree to a max extension this summer, it’s possible that the Spurs could put Leonard on the trading block. Leonard will be a free agent in 2019, and the Spurs certainly would not want to see their superstar forward leave without getting anything in return. However, what the Spurs could get from other teams for a player who could become a free agent in a few months is another question.

Five games are remaining for the Spurs to bring Leonard back into the rotation. Assuming he doesn’t return for the postseason, it will set up an exciting summer with some big questions for both sides to answer.