The star forward’s willingness to leave the Spurs became clear Friday morning, when the San Antonio Express News first reported he wants to be traded. According to sources not authorized to speak publicly, the Lakers have long been Leonard’s preferred destination, though the Clippers are among the teams he would consider.
More Rumors in this Storyline
But once they reach that breaking point, the Spurs still don’t need to acquiesce to Leonard’s wishes regarding where he wants to play. League sources have long felt that Leonard would prefer to play close to home. Leonard was born in Los Angeles, grew up in nearby Riverside, and went to college in San Diego, where he still spends each summer.
Jorge Sierra: This comes via @BovadaLV. #KawhiSweepstakes
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.
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.
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.
It’s commonly heard on the front office grapevine that Leonard is eyeing the Lakers as a free agent in 2019. One of the Western Conference executives noted it’s no accident that the Lakers reportedly have shifted their free-agent plans to focus on the ’19 class (which Leonard may headline), according to Shelburne and ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, as opposed to a quick fix this summer. “That’s why [the Lakers] are spinning it into ‘wait till next year,'” the executive said. “They know they can get Kawhi.”
On Monday, LaVar, LiAngelo and LaMelo appeared in studio with ESPN LA’s Marcellus Wiley and Travis Rodgers. Late in the interview, the potential of Lonzo getting traded for Leonard and was brought up. LaVar was having none of it. He said: “Stop it. Stop it. I’m gonna tell you why (that won’t happen). You know what Lonzo is to me? Gelo is my pretty boy. This (LaMelo) is my wow boy. But Zo is the people’s choice. They won’t let it happen. You can’t get rid of Zo! He’s the people’s choice. “Everybody on the outside can say what they want, but when you put it down on paper, the Ball boys are good for business.”
That cheering you hear is the parade cranking up in Lakerdom. Byron Scott, who is close to Magic Johnson, actually announced on ESPN, “I’m going to tell you something right now. LeBron (James) is coming to the Lakers along with Kawhi. We’re back in the Finals!” Reports dovetailing with that one swept the league: Kawhi, a Los Angeles guy who grew up in the Inland Empire, wants to come home. Kawhi, who has one year left on his contract, will force a trade to the Lakers.
With less to offer in trade than other teams, the Lakers need Leonard to force a deal, which he may well try, and for the Spurs to accede, which is less likely…. It’s one of Popovich’s cardinal rules not to help West rivals, much less one with the tradition and resources of the Lakers. Popovich almost never says a bad word about another team but went bonkers in 2008 when Memphis traded Pau Gasol to the post-Shaquille O’Neal Lakers, setting them up for three Finals runs and two titles. “What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension,” said Popovich then. “… I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I’d like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade.”
Chris Mannix: “The one thing the Spurs have to decide over the next few weeks is: Are they prepared to make Kawhi Leonard a super-max offer? Because if they make Kawhi a super-max offer — when I talk to other teams, they’d be stunned if Kawhi turned it down. That’s just real money. The oft repeated phrase I hear is, ‘Take the money and demand a trade later.’ You can’t get that money back from another team in a potential trade. So the Spurs have to decide if they want to do that. If they don’t, then they have to put him on the market. In that situation, the situation is irreconcilable. Now, you hear the Lakers, you hear the Knicks, Boston will be in line for this. They absolutely will make an offer of some type for Kawhi Leonard. And they still have more assets than anyone else.”
Former Lakers coach and star Byron Scott, for one, said this week that he believes the team has targeted this summer for a quick jump-start rebuild, suggesting that LA will wind up with both Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James this summer. Around the league, front-office sources agree with at least half that assessment. “I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Sporting News. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”
But make no mistake, the Lakers are the favorite here. “I would say that’s the most likely thing,” another general manager told Sporting News. “He’s going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There’s not many other ways to explain what’s been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio.”
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”
Robinson added California is Leonard’s desired destination: Believe you me, he definitely wants to be somewhere especially like being at home.
Storyline Hype Rumor visits per day for the last week
Views per day
June 18, 2018 | 10:18 pm EDT Update
Brad Stevens: First of all, if you bring our whole group back, that’s great. Our group was really connected. We’re going to obviously add two really good players that weren’t playing at the end of the year. We’re kind of in a unique situation.
What did you think of Jayson Tatum’s growth? Brad Stevens: I think he can get a lot better. He did some incredible things. No. 1 is his durability. He played 99 games. My only concern going into the playoffs was his minutes. We were very alert to that, especially because he dipped a little in January, and really took to heart how important nutrition, the weight room, and the training room are. I think if you talk to anyone down there, he took it to a different level in those areas and just continued to rise as the season went on and played great all season. But he can get better.
Brad Stevens: Two years ago we knew we were picking Jaylen. It was clear as day. And Terry Rozier the year before was pretty clear. Q. Terry was clear in the days leading up to the draft? A. A month. Right after our season ended I remember Danny walking in and talking about, ‘Watch Terry Rozier.’ He wasn’t listed necessarily quite that high, but Danny was really sold on him. Every year is a little different but you can kind of tell what he likes.
Kyle Neubeck: “We’re going to go deep into July I think before they really start talking to candidates,” Woj says of the #Sixers front office search on ESPN’s draft show.
June 18, 2018 | 8:53 pm EDT Update
Sagar Trika: When asked if the decision at #1 has been made, McDonough said he’d draw out the suspense for another 72 hours or so. Says they’ve narrowed it down to a tier of five guys (in no order): Marvin Bagley, Luka Dončić, Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Mohamed Bamba.