NBA: San Antonio Spurs deny rift with injured star Kawhi Leonard

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard played just nine games this season due to quadriceps and shoulder injuries.
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard played just nine games this season due to quadriceps and shoulder injuries. PHOTO: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS

(REUTERS) - Reports of a growing rift between the San Antonio Spurs and injured star forward Kawhi Leonard were immediately dismissed by the organization and Leonard's uncle on Monday.

Leonard has played just nine games this season due to quadriceps and shoulder injuries and is again sidelined due to the quad ailment.

A report from ESPN said the treatment efforts have had a "chilling impact" on the relationship and claimed Leonard's camp is disconnected from the organization.

San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford disagrees with the assertion.

"There is no issue between the Spurs' organization and Kawhi," Buford told ESPN. "From Day One all parties have worked together to find the best solutions to his injury."

The failure for Leonard to get healthy from an injury sustained during the preseason is maddening to both parties.

"This has been difficult for everyone," Buford said. "It's been difficult for Kawhi. He's an elite-level player. It's been difficult for the team, because they want to play with a great teammate. And it's been difficult for our staff. Historically we've been able to successfully manage injuries. This rehab hasn't been simple, and it hasn't gone in a linear fashion."

Leonard hasn't addressed the latest situation publicly, but his uncle, Dennis Robertson, denied there is a conflict in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News.

"There is nothing true to that story," Robertson told the Express-News of the ESPN report. "Kawhi's camp and the Spurs are how they've always been - doing the right thing for the team and the right thing for Kawhi."

Leonard's quadriceps injury was announced by the Spurs on Sept. 30, and he was ruled out for the rest of the preseason.

However, he ended up missing the first 27 games of the regular season as his injury proved slow to heal.

The Spurs were miffed by the slow healing process and sent him to specialists, but progress remained slow.

"We sought outside expertise with the best tendon experts in the world,"Buford said. "It worked beautifully for Tony (Parker), but it hasn't worked the same for Kawhi."

Leonard is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and also was NBA Finals MVP in 2014 when the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat.