The basketball world was stunned to learn that Kawhi Leonard wanted out of the San Antonio Spurs organization this summer, after a falling out with his teammates and head coach Gregg Popovich.
Leonard played only nine games last season, due to a nagging quad injury. The team held a meeting and begged for him to come back and help them in their quest for a playoff berth. There were also disagreements about how to go about handling the quad injury, with Leonard seemingly getting pressured to return despite not feeling ready.
Speaking with Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher, one unnamed Eastern Conference executive explained how the Spurs botched the entire Leonard saga - detailing that it all stemmed from not treating him nicely.
"The San Antonio mafia is real," said the executive. "When the Godfather (Gregg Popovich) speaks, they're coming for you. He's the nicest kid in the world and all of a sudden he's an evil villain? He's not an angry kid.
He's a sweetheart....Kawhi doesn't talk to the media. Why would he call someone in the media to kill San Antonio for him? Let's face it: San Antonio screwed up."
Leonard is known for not being much of a talker, and he never outright said anything bad about the Spurs coaches, players or members of the front office. But the message was clear: He felt disrespected and didn't want to be part of the organization that he guided to an NBA Championship in 2014.
What This Means
It's no kept secret that coach Popovich runs a tight ship in San Antonio, but it has produced five NBA Championships and 21 consecutive trips to the postseason. Most superstars buy into the system of 'Coach Pop,' and it's led to perennial success for the organization.
But it was a different case for Leonard, who was being pushed to come back from an injury when he obviously didn't feel ready. A change of scenery has done wonders for Leonard - whose Raptors sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 12-2 record.
Other teams can learn a lesson from the Spurs-Leonard saga about making sure your star players feel respected and beloved. Otherwise, they'll rightfully ask for a trade to a team that will give them what that respect.