In their version of the story, team veterans asked Leonard if he expected to return, and if so, when.
Because of the meeting, the team did not conduct its usual postgame player interviews with its broadcast partner.
The meeting itself took place after a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, March 17th. Teammate Tony Parker has been outspoken recently that Leonard should be playing. Leonard has impressed his coaches and teammates during 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 workouts, and there had been a belief his rehabilitation was cycling toward a return to the floor.
The small forward's prolonged absence has hampered the Spurs' quest for a post-season spot and last week the five-time National Basketball Association champions briefly dropped outside the playoffs picture, but have since climbed up to sixth place in the Western Conference and now hold a 42-30 record.
A two-time Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-NBA player, as well as the 2014 Finals MVP, Leonard is eligible for a $200 million contract extension this summer and free agency in 2019.
According to Wojnarowski, the meeting was "tense and emotional at times", with players expressing confusion and frustration over Leonard's absence. San Antonio has won five straight games. "You don't think he wants to come back?"
Wojnarowski states that Tony Parker led an emotional meeting in which teammates implored Leonard to return to the lineup and help the Spurs make a push for a playoff spot. "We fell for it a week ago, again".
Prior to this season where Leonard has only played in nine games, the least amount of games he played in any other season was his second in the league.
What's the general message you guys have for Kawhi? But as I said maybe a month ago, I don't know when it was, we've got to think that he's not coming back, that we are who we are and that we've got to fight without him.
Green relayed the same sentiment.
"It was incorrect, wrong, false", Green said. "[Gregg Popovich] has made that very clear after the break". It limited him to nine games, a number that might not change before the end of this campaign. But our mindset with 10 games left: "We've got to make the best of it with the group that we have". Leonard informed the Spurs on January 17 that he needed to take time away to focus on rehabilitation.
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