Doug Gottlieb Fox

When it comes to bashing Kawhi Leonard, Stephen A. Smith stands alone, but he doesn’t particularly care.

On multiple occasions, Smith has now offered a brutal assessment of Leonard, who is dealing with a knee sprain, which he aggravated in Game 1 of the Clippers’ opening-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns. After Leonard missed Game 3, Smith took aim at the two-time NBA champion and five-time All-Star, claiming that he’d rather deal with embattled Mavericks star, Kyrie Irving, instead.

“This is Stephen A. talking,” Smith began on the latest episode of Know Mercy with Stephen A. Smith. “I’d rather have Kyrie Irving than Kawhi Leonard. I must be smoking crack, right? Well, let me help you out. Kyrie might do something that’ll make the wrong headlines, but come playoff time, you got to see him get hurt for him to not be available. And I’m not questioning the legitimacy of Kawhi’s injury. I’m saying his injuries coupled with load management.”

“Kawhi Leonard’s walking off the court. He looks just fine. He just dropped 31. And then we get news, he gone miss the game. You load managed all year. You missed the entire freaking season in 2021-22. You got the whole damn year. You getting all the money to get all the necessary medical treatment, all the technology in the world available to you. You practice when you want. You travel when you want. You eat when and what you want. Every damn thing is available to Kawhi Leonard. And what [the Clippers] get in return is sporadic commitment.”

Keep in mind that these comments were made after Leonard missed Game 3 of the series with a knee injury. While he later made more remarks about Leonard and his future during ESPN’s NBA Countdown on Friday night, he was called out by one of his former colleagues for the comments he made on his podcast.

While Doug Gottlieb hasn’t been at ESPN for more than a decade, the Fox Sports radio host has a relationship with Smith. At the same time, he called out Smith, who has seemingly been the only media personality to take exception with Lenoard’s injuries, even if he claims that he’s not questioning the legitimacy of them in any way.

“I have to say this,” Gottlieb tweeted. “I know Stephen A well enough. Good dude. I just have to ask, what in the actual —– is he talking about. Kawhi has been the best player in the league the last two months…do you think he doesn’t want to be out there?”

Before Gottlieb went after Smith for his Leonard opinion, he asked him if he was done with Joel Embiid as well. Embiid, like Leonard, suffered a sprained right knee and will miss Game 4 vs. the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.

Sounds a bit familiar.

After it was announced that Leonard had been ruled out for Game 4 on Saturday, Smith again had to get some things off his chest, doubling down on his opinions from earlier.

“In the case of Kawhi Leonard, I stand alone probably on this but I don’t care: I think the man should retire,” Smith said Friday night. “I’m sick of these injuries to Kawhi… It’s a damn shame.”

Gottlieb has yet to fire back regarding those comments, but it’s likely that Smith is in a world of his own on this one, too. Leonard has dealt with various knee injuries throughout the course of his NBA career, this is just the latest one. Smith says he’s not questioning the legitimacy of Leonard’s injuries, but he also said that you’d have to see a player like Irving get hurt for him to not be available. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a personality like Gottlieb would call him out on Twitter.

[Stephen A. Smith, Doug Gottlieb]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.