Storyline: Kawhi Leonard Trade?

20 rumors in this storyline

More Rumors in this Storyline

Lakers targeting Kawhi Leonard this summer?

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.”

Yet when it comes to understanding these Spurs, there’s a six-degrees-of-Kawhi component that won’t go away until his situation is resolved. The Spurs can offer him a five-year, $215 million extension this July, but there is increasing hope around the league they might trade him instead. His absence is only mysterious because of the breakdown in communication between the sides, with the Spurs having cleared Leonard to return only to see him stay away because his outside medical group — “his group,” as Popovich has repeatedly called them — has advised otherwise. Along the way, there’s an inevitable ripple effect on his teammates — on and off the floor.

Now for the first time, someone is actually going on record stating that Leonard has had enough and wants out of San Antonio. On his podcast HOLDAT (20:55), former NBA player Nate Robinson puts it bluntly: “From what I heard, from a little birdie, what I heard that the reason why he doesn’t, not that he doesn’t want to play, is that he doesn’t want to be in San Antonio no more, is because that I heard a big bag was coming. But if he doesn’t leave San Antonio that bag is not coming.”

Brian Windhorst: [The Spurs] can offer it [to Kawhi Leonard]. They put the $200 million [max extension] out there. Three months ago, I would have put down major money that that would have happened. So now, it’s not just whether Kawhi wants to extend his contract, it’s whether the Spurs want to offer him the $200 million. Tim McMahon: If the answer there is that they don’t, then it could become whether they explore the market and see ‘OK, if we’re not going to offer [Kawhi] the super-max, do we trade him?’ That’s a couple decisions down the road, but we’re on one now where it’s not a crazy possibility.

Can you please tell me that my Spurs are going to be O.K. after this latest Kawhi Leonard news? Marc Stein: Really wish I could, but Wednesday’s proclamation from Gregg Popovich that he’d be surprised to see Leonard return this season is ominous on too many levels. The Spurs have won at least 50 games in 18 consecutive seasons and have posted a winning record on the road going all the way back to the 1997-98 season, which was Tim Duncan’s rookie season. Both of those streaks are in serious jeopardy now — and that’s just the short-term stuff. How deep are the fissures in Leonard’s relationship with the Spurs? Were Pop’s comments intended to try to goad him into coming back? Are the Spurs unwilling to offer the “supermax” contract this summer that Leonard is eligible to receive? Is this all building toward a showdown that winds up getting Leonard — who so many of us thought was the perfect Spur and a future M.V.P. — traded in the off-season? These are the sorts of questions people around the league are asking about San Antonio, which hasn’t endured drama on this level since the early days of Duncan’s career, before the Pop-led Spurs started regularly winning championships in 2003.

All of this seems crazy, because Leonard is known for being a low key player and the Spurs are great at avoiding this kind of locker room drama. But a few months after a player requested a trade for the first time during Gregg Popovich’s tenure, these rumors of discontent regarding Leonard came to light. If you ask Leonard’s uncle/business manager, though, these rumors are not true. We know this because Jared Zwerling of Sports Illustrated spoke to Dennis Robertson, Leonard’s uncle/business manager, and he said they were not true. Funny how that works out, eh? “Dennis called me, we had a nice chat,” Zwerling said on SI Now on Tuesday. “Actually, before he called me, Dennis had a chat with R.C. Buford, GM of the Spurs, and it was a great conversation. Overall, here’s the consensus: the story is farthest from the truth. That was a quote from Dennis. We talked about the situation. Really, there’s no issue between Kawhi and the Spurs.”

Following the ESPN report, Jalen Rose said on First Take that Leonard wants to leave San Antonio. “The reason why is tenfold. One is they’ve been unable to attract elite-level, All-NBA caliber free agents to come play with him. …. Here’s why, I think, players have not done that. The ‘Spurs’ way’ looks like opportunity dressed in overalls. It looks like work, and people really don’t want that. Players talk about wanting to win and wanting to be a champion, but ultimately they want to do it on their own terms. And when you go to San Antonio, guess who is the CEO of that organization? Gregg Popovich. It’s going to be his way.
More HoopsHype Rumors
April 21, 2018 | 10:03 pm EDT Update