Playing for the San Antonio Spurs is similar to playing with LeBron James in that both parties are infallible.
That means if anything goes wrong, as with the case of Kawhi Leonard's trade request, the blame falls squarely on the other side. It can't possibly be the fault of the best organization in basketball, and it must be that Leonard has gone mad.
The prevailing narrative is that Leonard and his greedy uncle-turned-manager Dennis Robertson are silly for wanting to leave. Leonard's otherwise unblemished name was dragged through the mud over the last six months as he recovered from a quad injury, even though there's plenty of fault to go around on both sides.
San Antonio is hardly blameless. The Spurs alienated their franchise player, overplayed the "Spurs mystique" that faded after Tim Duncan retired, took shots at Leonard through the media, and now they're about to face a harsh reality going forward.
Their failure was driven by two key mistakes.
Alienating their franchise player
Reports suggest Leonard's camp feels betrayed by the Spurs, although you don't need reporters to tell you there are problems since he's leaving $219 million on the table.
How did the rift get so bad? It all traces back to Leonard's right quadriceps injury, which the Spurs medical team initially called a contusion. He played through the injury in last year's playoffs, but the true severity wasn't known until the offseason. Leonard's recovery was slow, and he didn't fully trust himself to play. When he finally did make his return in December, the 26-year-old was in and out of the lineup and eventually had to sit after nine games.
He still wasn't completely healed and sought a second opinion, which is what anyone else would do in that situation. His doctors concluded Leonard had a tendon issue causing a degenerative effect on the muscle, which meant a different recovery schedule than what the Spurs called for since their doctors thought it was a bruise. That disagreement contributed to tension in the relationship, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.