Spurs feel some relief with absence of Kawhi Leonard drama

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“I was glad it was over,” point guard Dejounte Murray said. “Everywhere I went, I couldn’t really go anywhere [without] everybody asking me. Just all the drama, and the Spurs aren’t used to drama. So it was weird for everybody in the world. It was a lot. Everywhere we went, you’d see on ESPN or First Take: ‘Kawhi-Spurs, Kawhi-Spurs.’ It was a lot of drama. We’re just glad it’s over with, and we get to go into training camp with no drama, new guys, exciting guys. This is going to be a fun year.

The relationship between Leonard and the Spurs deteriorated last season over treatment of his quadriceps injury. He reportedly felt that the team mishandled it and then didn’t support him when he said he couldn’t play. Leonard ultimately sought treatment outside of the organization, and the distance between the parties grew.

The Spurs traded the disgruntled Leonard in July along with Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick. Meanwhile, Parker opted to sign with the Charlotte Hornets in free agency, and Ginobili announced his retirement in August after 16 seasons in San Antonio.4

“I wasn’t even going to talk about it,” power forward LaMarcus Aldridge said when asked whether he was happy to see the drama from the Leonard saga finally come to conclusion. “It’s gone now. If you’re going to ask questions about that whole thing, I’m not going to answer them. We’re happy to turn the page. DeMar is here. He’s happy and he’s motivated. I played in open gym with him. He’s going to make us better. You’ve got to look forward. We have a very talented team I’m looking forward to playing with.”

When the club opened camp at its facilities Monday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich confessed, “I really don’t know all the names” of the players. After all, eighth-year Spurs reserve Patty Mills is currently the franchise’s longest-tenured player.

Eleven of the players on San Antonio’s current 19-player roster entered camp with two years or fewer of experience.

Popovich described opening camp with such a retooled roster sans Duncan, Parker and Ginobili as “a little melancholy,” but he expressed excitement about the future.

“At the same time, it’s a great opportunity for a new challenge and new energy, a different route, different perspective,” he said. “Seeing all the new faces that you have to try to put together, it will make it an interesting, challenging year, but in a good way.”