With Kawhi Leonard now officially a member of the Toronto Raptors after San Antonio's surprising swap to acquire DeMar DeRozan last week, Spurs legend David Robinson revealed how difficult it was to communicate with the former Finals MVP during their time together in San Antonio.
"He really, he's a hard guy," Robinson said Monday on ESPN's The Jump with Rachel Nichols. "He's just quiet. He doesn't ... I've reached out to him several times and just never hear anything back from him.
"I think the whole time he's been here [in San Antonio], I've talked to him maybe a handful of times, and I can count on one hand how many words he's really said to me. So he's just a quiet guy, and I think that that's made it difficult, I think, for all parties to really understand each other in this process."
The Spurs traded Leonard along with Danny Green in exchange for DeRozan, a 2019 protected first-round pick and big man Jakob Poeltl, ending the yearlong saga between the two-time defensive player of the year and San Antonio, which grew contentious because of an apparent disconnect over the state of Leonard's quad injury.
Leonard was knocked out of the 2017 playoffs because of the injury and went on to play in just nine games in the 2017-18 season as a result. His season was shut down for good in mid-January.
Robinson received the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award, named after the celebrated ESPN anchor, at the Sports Humanitarian Awards (which will aired on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday) for his work building publicly funded charter schools to help students prepare for a college education. He said he is still perplexed by Leonard's exit.
"I mean, it's one of the oddest situations I think I've seen since I've been in pro basketball," Robinson said. "He's a hard guy to understand. He's a hard guy to read."
Robinson, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 after a 14-year career in San Antonio that featured two championships, 10 All-Star appearances and a regular-season MVP award in 1995, found it curious that the Spurs -- who were among the early adopters to resting healthy players to save them for the long haul -- would change course and force Leonard to play if they felt like it could harm him.
"San Antonio, we obviously have a reputation for taking care of our players, almost too much, I mean, people criticize us for sitting guys down," he said. "Now all of the sudden, you know, we've got a guy who says he felt pressure to play. Which is, you know, tough. I mean, what can you do? We typically don't risk our players' health. But if a guy's not happy, he's got to go somewhere where he can play, and I think [coach] Pop [Gregg Popovich] and [general manager] R.C. [Buford] and our team did a pretty good job of kind of meeting our needs for the future. I think we'll move on from here. I think we're pretty happy with the deal and we'll continue to grow and get better."
Leonard, who is being advised by his uncle, Dennis Robertson, has yet to issue any sort of statement since the trade. However, he did pose for a photo with some of Toronto's top brass over the weekend.
"Has anybody spoke to Kawhi about this?" Robinson retorted when asked whether he has had any dialogue with Leonard. "You know, I mean, I talked to his uncle. I mean, does that count?"