As has been well-documented, the task for Toronto in the coming year is to persuade Leonard to stay in a place and perform for a team for which he had no desire to play just a few short weeks ago. It’s a tall order, and if the Raptors can do it, the massive gamble they took this month will have paid off. Most around the league still expect that Leonard will look to return home to Southern California, either to join LeBron James with the Lakers or bring his star power to the Clippers.
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I don’t think so. Marks is his own man and his staff has its own tale to tell Leonard and his representatives. The Philadelphia 76ers, for example, had a good shot at Leonard in part because of Leonard’s relationship with Sixers coach Brett Brown — a relationship that was formed while Brown was an assistant in San Antonio. Unless Marks rubbed Leonard the wrong way somehow in the 210, and there’s absolutely no evidence I know of indicating that, I think Leonard will give the Nets a fair hearing next July.
The Raptors certainly want to try and convince Leonard to stay, and they have a story to tell — about their team, their organization, and their city/country that is unique among NBA franchises. Maybe Leonard and Kyle Lowry hit it off off the floor the way Lowry and DeMar DeRozan did. Maybe Toronto’s legendary Director of Sports Science, Alex McKechnie — who has worked wonders with NBA players for two-plus decades — gets in front of him and finds something that works to rapidly improve Leonard’s quad.
So Leonard will zip up his parka, play an obligatory season with the Raptors, respectfully decline their offer for a long-term supermax contract and bid adieu to the Great White North next summer … just as the Lakers, who conspicuously have been signing free agents to one-year contracts, clear salary cap space for him to join LeBron James. Right? That’s the off-the-rack take. Here’s what someone who knows Leonard as well as anybody told me privately: “He’s going to fall in love with Toronto – it’s going to happen. He’s not going to leave, I’m telling you.”
Former Raptors beat writer turned columnist Bruce Arthur said on the “Back To Back” podcast that Leonard not only doesn’t want to stay in Toronto but has been reaching out to stars to link up with in 2019. And Arthur suggested the Lakers aren’t his only landing spot, but Brooklyn could well be on that shortlist.
Ric Bucher: First weekend of LV Summer League I asked a rival GM about Kawhi going and staying in Toronto. “No chance,” he said. “He was in the All-Star Game there. Never left his room. He hates the cold.”
They didn’t start with much, either. Nobody knows if Leonard is healthy enough to regain status as a top-five player and MVP candidate. (He still has to pass a physical.) Suitors feared his impending free agency, and his reported preference for one of the L.A. teams. His camp made it very clear over the past week, to the Raptors and other teams, that Leonard wanted no part of Toronto, sources say.
Bruce Arthur: “One thing I was told last night is that Kawhi Leonard has already been planning out his free agency for next year and he’s already been in contact with other star players in the league, saying, ‘hey, where might you want to play with me? What are we looking at?’ And it wasn’t just L.A. he was talking about. Brooklyn was maybe somewhere that’ll have a ton of cap space. That’s a possibility.”
MARC STEIN: But I did hear enough chatter in various Vegas conversations to believe that the Raptors have given legit consideration to gambling on a trade for Leonard, with three obvious problems to contend with: 1) Leonard can leave in free agency at season’s end, even if the Raptors are fortunate enough to trade for him. 2) Leonard’s camp has given no indication to any interested team that he plans to sign anywhere but Los Angeles (with either the Lakers or the Clippers) in July 2019. 3) Leonard’s readiness for next season, thanks to the quadriceps injury that limited him to nine games last season, has to concern teams in Toronto’s position as much as the idea of trading for him and losing him months later.
Kawhi Leonard is now super max eligible (third year anniversary of the contract signed on July 16, 2015) to receive a five-year $221 million extension from the Spurs. If Leonard is traded, the most he could receive in an extension (six months after the trade) would be $108 million over four-years (starting in 2019-20). Leonard would be eligible to sign a five-year $190 million contract as a free agent with the team acquiring him or four-years $141 million with a team that has cap space.
Peter Vecsey: People can talk about Boston and Philly all they want as being reasonable relocations, but, contrary to a report, I’m told Kawhi is adamant about refusing to commit past next season to the 76ers. Hence, why would either team give up anyone or anything worthwhile to enhance a single championship sortie?
Peter Vecsey: “Kawhi is seriously prepared to sacrifice $80 million to play in L.A.,” says the same associate. He’s entitled to an extension worth $219M should Pop do the unthinkable and play nice. He could also play hard ass and pay Kawhi what’s on the books — $20,099,188. “He ain’t giving up 80 million to play in Boston or Philly!” the associate asserts.
Peter Vecsey: Before calling Kawhi a wrap, an additional inaccuracy needs to be corrected. Despite what you may have read or been told by two national columnists, Kawhi has absolutely no reservations about playing with LeBron James. “He’d be glad to play with him,” the associate stresses. “If not, he would do the Clippers.”
Peter Vecsey: The Spurs have the summer, maybe part of the fall, no longer, to leverage the Lakers for a prominent trade. “Pop is demanding outrageous packages. He’s trying to bankrupt the Lakers’ talent pool,” a Western Conference executive discloses.
Sources says the Sixers are not out of James’ free agency hunt. Now, things could change if the Lakers are able to trade for San Antonio Spurs two-time all-star forward Kawhi Leonard. Under that scenerio, James would probably like to play alongside Leonard. However, sources have said that the Sixers are still in the hunt for trading for Leonard as well.
Jabari Young: So, in the last 48 hrs, here’s what I know: #Spurs are taking calls on Kawhi, while also informing him they want him to stay. Communication is there, but he’s still of the mindset he wants out. LA is the target. A few East teams want in, but not sure they have enough assets.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Boston’s extremely cautious on Leonard front. There’s so much uncertainty w/ Leonard’s future — health, free agent desires, etc. Will Leonard be same player? That’s hard to tell. Celtics don’t have to make a risky trade and have no intention to do so. It’s an interesting dance.
Marc Stein: This doesn’t guarantee Kawhi Leonard is going to the Lakers this week — since San Antonio could always trade him elsewhere and/or drag things out — but league sources say of the Spurs: “They’re ready” to move on from Kawhi
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Spurs are fully engaged in trade talks with several teams on Kawhi Leonard, including the Lakers and Celtics, league sources tell ESPN. Boston has long had the assets that the Spurs most covet in a potential Leonard trade.
As LeBron James remains hesitant to be the first superstar to decide on the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, pressure is mounting for the Lakers front office to execute a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to acquire disgruntled All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, league sources told ESPN.
While the Lakers came away feeling like San Antonio “shut the door on us” and the conversation never progressed or included a formal trade offer, the Spurs haven’t ruled out sending Leonard to any destination, in the Eastern or Western Conference, league sources said.
Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said Thursday night that the franchise’s desire is to keep disgruntled All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard in the fold but that the club “will explore all of our options.” Among the issues Leonard has had with the Spurs is his frustration with the team’s handling of a quadriceps injury that kept him out of action for all but nine games this past season. Leonard wants to be traded to Los Angeles, preferably to the Lakers, sources have told ESPN.
According to Robinson, Kawhi has to take responsibility and step up as a leader of the franchise if he wants to be viewed on the same level as LeBron James. “If you want to be a top two or three player in the league, you’ve got to be a leader. LeBron doesn’t sit around waiting for people to talk for him. LeBron gets out there and says ‘hey, this is my team, this is what’s happening.’ And I think that’s where Kawhi is. He’s meant so much for our franchise. We love him, we all want him to be there next year. But we want him to be there and take control.”
Shams Charania: The Los Angeles Lakers have reached out to the San Antonio Spurs to express interest in All-Star Kawhi Leonard, league sources tell Yahoo. No proposals have been discussed.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Spurs are willing listeners on Kawhi Leonard trade proposals, but haven’t been proactive in chasing down offers, league sources tell ESPN. For now, make an offer and they’ll add it to their board. Spurs and Lakers have had no dialogue on Leonard.
Adrian Wojnarowski: If Kawhi Leonard does become available in trade talks, the Boston Celtics will be interested in probing the Spurs about a deal, league sources tell ESPN. Boston inquired about a trade prior to the February deadline, sources said.
Marc Stein: The Clippers indeed intend to be aggressive trade bidders for Kawhi Leonard, league sources say, if/when San Antonio actually makes him available. That obviously hasn’t happened — yet
Kevin O’Connor: Expect the the Sixers, Celtics, Lakers and Clippers to be the main four teams pursuing Kawhi Leonard, per sources. Teams with top picks could always jump into the sweepstakes, but the risk would be significant considering Leonard has just one more season left on his contract.
Jabari Young: And here we go… sources tell @ExpressNews that Kawhi Leonard wants to be traded from #Spurs … more to come…
Adrian Wojnarowski: San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard has Los Angeles — preferably the Lakers — at the center of his preferences for a trade destination, league sources tell ESPN.
Sources: So far, Leonard has expressed nothing directly to Spurs about future. Lakers and Clippers interest Leonard — and both teams would move quickly to assemble packages to acquire Leonard. Spurs won’t rush. Leonard and his camp had shown interest in $219M super max deal.
Chris Haynes: Kawhi Leonard isn’t concerned about missing out on the supermax, sources tell ESPN. There’s a feeling of betrayal that at this juncture, appears irreparable.
Ian Begley: There are more than a few teams who can offer a better package to San Antonio for Kawhi than the Knicks can (assuming they don’t include Porzingis), but people close to Leonard have expressed a desire for Leonard to play in New York, per sources. twitter.com/chrisbhaynes/s…
Leonard has grown uncomfortable with the Spurs organization and is ready to move on, league sources said.
Chris Mannix: Look for the Lakers to make a big play for Kawhi Leonard. LA has the pieces, and can feel comfortable that Leonard wants to be there long term.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers have interest in Leonard, each with a differing array of young assets to trade for him now and the potential of salary-cap space to sign Leonard outright in 2019. In the end, Leonard could dictate his destination based on his willingness to sign long term upon a trade. Oklahoma City acquired All-Star forward Paul George last summer without a commitment, and there will undoubtedly be a few teams with a similarly adventurous spirit in pursuit of Leonard.
On his new show, “Pull Up” podcast, CJ weighed in on Kawhi’s future implying he could be home bound to California bound to join the Lakers and be offered plenty of money with their cap space. “It’s a very sticky situation right now in San Antonio, I’m gonna put it like this… He’s from California, lot of cap space out there in California”
Popovich and sources within the organization have long maintained that the team will continue to err on the side of caution when it comes to Leonard’s injury. It’s expected the club will offer the forward a max contract extension worth more than $200 million over the summer. Leonard stepped away to focus on rehabbing the injured quad after a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended on Jan. 13.
Asked if he would like to finish his career as a Spur, Leonard said. “Yeah. For sure.” Leonard also said he hopes to get back on the court “soon,” although he doesn’t have a set date for his return. His last game was on Jan. 13.
RJ Marquez: BREAKING #Spurs news: Kawhi Leonard addressed the media today and said he would want to finish his career in San Antonio, adds he will return “soon” and he is practicing with physical contact, goal is still to return this year (pics via @markmendez) #KSATsports #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/dxqCduvlsU” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>pic.twitter.com/dxqCduvlsU” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>pic.twitter.com/dxqCduvlsU
The injury, rehabilitation and timetable for a return has played a part in complicating the Spurs and Leonard’s relationship, causing a fraying of what had long seemed to be a model partnership, league sources told ESPN. The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has created significant concern at the highest levels of the organization, league sources said.
The injury, rehabilitation and timetable for a return has complicated the Spurs and Leonard’s relationship, causing tension and fraying the fabric of what was once a strong partnership, league sources told ESPN. The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.
As the Los Angeles Lakers become more realistic about the franchise’s chances of snaring superstars in the free agent class of 2018, the front office is increasingly looking through a longer lens in its team building process, league sources told ESPN. The Lakers aren’t abandoning a summer pursuit of stars, but rather recalibrating on the possibility of a 2019 class that could include San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, league sources told ESPN.
After the San Antonio Spurs presented an offer of a maximum contract extension to his representatives, star forward Kawhi Leonard has agreed to the framework of a five-year deal that could be worth in excess of $90 million, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
While the Spurs await official word that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are coming back, their first order of business will be swift and simple: Re-signing defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard to a five-year max deal, league sources told CBSSports.com.
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August 15, 2018 | 2:11 pm EDT Update
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