The headling opponent for Opening Night, the Toronto Raptors represent the juiciest matchup for not just the San Antonio Spurs, but the National Basketball Association. He played in only nine games last season, seeking additional opinions on the injury after the Spurs' medical staff cleared him to play.
Despite his many accolades, which include two Defensive Player of the Year awards and the 2014 NBA Finals MVP award, Leonard carried himself in a similarly "stoic" manner as the Spurs' former franchise player, Tim Duncan, and mostly focused on his game, with little regard for his celebrity status. He claimed that after an initial diagnosis of a "slight strain" and a course of rehabilitation that kept him out for a few games, he continued to experience discomfort but team doctors did not send him to a specialist or perform another examination until the end of the season, when it was revealed that the strain had worsened into a groin tear.
"I get an MRI the next day", Green said of the injury suffered December 8 against Boston. After some time, it healed. "They've always done a hell of a job".
In reaction to these fairly recent rumors, ESPN's Michael C. Wright said on the latest episode of colleague Zach Lowe's podcast that Kawhi Leonard could have avoided his issues with the San Antonio Spurs by speaking up and telling the team that he also wanted to drive a luxury auto during the 2016 All-Star Weekend. Coach Gregg Popovich then offered vague descriptions of his star player's condition as Leonard missed the season opener and many more games after that, not returning to the court until December 12, 28 games into the season. With Leonard playing this season with Toronto, the Raptors would have the advantage of being able to pay $49 million more in a max deal than other suitors, such as the Los Angeles Lakers.
ESPN also reported Tuesday night that Leonard won't attend coach Gregg Popovich's Team USA minicamp this week in Las Vegas.