The feud between Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs finally came to a head when the 2014 Finals MVP was shipped out of San Antonio to the Toronto Raptors. Leonard played just nine games this past season due to injury and in January ESPN reported that there was a “riff” between Leonard and the Spurs organization. In February, he went to New York to get a second opinion on his injury and that’s when it started to go downhill. Point guard Tony Parker said he had a quad injury, too, but his was “100 times worse.”
Drama like this never occurred during the 19-year career of the legendary power forward Tim Duncan.
Two weeks ago, 13-year NBA veteran Antonio Daniels, who won a championship with the Spurs in 1999, went on The Herd with Colin Cowherd to discuss the Leonard and DeMar DeRozan trade.
“When Tim Duncan retired, the culture retired with him,” Daniels said.
Since Duncan’s retirement, LaMarcus Aldridge has wanted out of San Antonio. Parker is now in Charlotte and Leonard has been traded. Issues like these did not happen while Duncan was still playing, or they were never reported in the media.
Every team in the NBA deals with these issues, but with The Big Fundamental gone, these riffs between players and Gregg Popovich have been highlighted and scrutinized more than any other franchise since they have kept quiet for two decades.
The NFL’s version of the Spurs, the New England Patriots, are going through something similar. Since Tom Brady bought into what was being sold, the Patriots have been inside a bubble where nothing gets out of Foxborough. But towards the end of Brady’s career, relations have started to break down between head coach Bill Belichick and the star quarterback.
Not all is bad in the AT&T Center though. Last season without Leonard, the Spurs still made the playoffs in the Western Conference with the seventh seed and just a handful of games away from the third seed due to the play of forward Aldridge, who made the All-Star team and second-team All-NBA.
Dynasties in the NBA usually last three to five years before fatigue, age and tensions become too much, but the San Antonio way lasted nearly two decades and produced five NBA championships. However, when Father Time conquered Duncan, it conquered the Spurs dynasty, too.
Once the zenith of professionalism, the Spurs find themselves in the midst of a significant culture change with icons of a dying dynasty retiring and its current stars moving on to other places.