In 2000 in the 78th game of the season Tim Duncan tore his meniscus. It being very late in the season, and so close to playoffs, coach Pop was very cautious. Tim relentlessly tried to show Pop that he could run and play on his damaged knee, but Pop would have none of it. He sat him in the playoffs that year and the Spurs were defeated in the first round against the Phoenix Suns. While at the time many Spurs fans were cranky about this decision, it’s these kinds of decisions that made Tim Duncan the greatest power forward of all time. Pop’s cautiousness over the years prolonged Tim’s career greatly, allowing him to play till he was 40 years old. Anyone who says Pop didn’t make the right decision that year must’ve been asleep for the next 16 years, as Tim Duncan and the Spurs would collect four championships in that time span. Aside from the seriousness of Tim’s injury compared to Kawhi Leonard’s, the situation the Spurs find themselves in is no different, and anyone who criticizes Pop for it is being shortsighted.
As fans, it is close to impossible to not be shortsighted. Many “experts,” especially those who have made a career out of worshiping Lebron James, have criticized Kawhi for not manning up saying that those who are constantly compared to Kawhi would have played. This claim is bullshit.
Saying that Lebron James would have played, while he also rested throughout the whole season as well is just hypocritical. Pop would sit any other player with whatever name on the back of their jersey if they were in the same situation, and he would do it without hesitation. The Spurs have structured their organization in such a way that when the head coach along with his assistants make a decision that player abides by it, because they know it is not only in their best interest, but for the Spurs organization as a whole. It’s a novel way to run one’s organization, as opposed to the player-General Manager role that the rest of the stars in the league abide by. Pop’s word is final, and we must trust it.
Who knows how this decision will play out over the coming seasons, but if I were a betting man, which I am, I’d say you’re betting with house money if you trust Pop’s word and his vision for the future.