If Kawhi Leonard is really unhappy on the Spurs and wants out, Clippers star Patrick Beverley says they’d LOVE him in L.A., telling TMZ Sports getting Kawhi would be like “Hitting the lottery.” […] “We’d hit the lottery with that, but those decisions aren’t up to me!”
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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.”
One well-placed insider who has closely monitored this situation told me recently that the Spurs continue to give off signals behind the scenes that they won’t trade Leonard. I’m sure they want Leonard to believe that, but this saga has reached the point that a trade has to be considered no less likely than the prospect of a Pop/Kawhi summit that leads to a detente.
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.
While on ESPN’s “SportsNation,” Windhorst thinks where Leonard goes will directly impact the future of Cavaliers’ LeBron James. What happens to Kawhi Leonard, is a link to what happens to LeBron (James). Where Kawhi ends up this season, will have a direct impact on where LeBron ends up even if they don’t play together.
Consider the Los Angeles Clippers one of the many teams keeping tabs on the situation. The Clippers are planning a trade package if Leonard ultimately becomes available, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Landing Leonard – who grew up outside of Los Angeles in Moreno Valley, hails from San Diego State and is known to be a favorite of Clippers consultant Jerry West – would be well worth the hefty price it would take to get him. Maybe the Clippers offer their two first-round picks in this June’s draft, and whatever combination of other talent the Spurs want in return. And suddenly, they’re back in Western Conference contention again.
Ben Rohrbach: “If we had to trade Jayson Tatum for Kawhi Leonard, I’m leaving town.” — Tommy Heinsohn, Celtics legend
NBA teams are reportedly preparing to inquire about the availability of Kawhi Leonard during the offseason. While guesting on Outside The Lines, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said that “several NBA general managers” have indicated that the Spurs will be getting calls about their 26-year-old star. “I have already talked to several NBA general managers. At the end of this season, teams will call the Spurs and inquire about the availability of Kawhi Leonard.”
Zach Lowe: Not that Windy [Brian Windhorst] needs any confirmation, ever, but this is 100% true. Vultures are circling, in hopes of action around the draft.
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.”
Robinson added California is Leonard’s desired destination: Believe you me, he definitely wants to be somewhere especially like being at home.
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.
And also the way his injury situation was handled. You see him in the lineup, you see him out of the lineup. Is it his quad? What’s going on with his history? Was he misdiagnosed? Will we look back on at this situation with his injury kind of like we’re doing with the Boston Celtics? Remember, the Celtics fired their entire staff as it related to how Isaiah Thomas’ injury was being handled because his hip was misdiagnosed.”
However, there is a growing sense that if the Hornets could find a way to pry Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard out of San Antonio, they pull the trigger. League sources that have engaged the Hornets on Walker scenarios said they believed the Hornets’ stance was more fact-finding and option gathering than anything serious; they also doubted that Charlotte would do anything with Walker based on their conversations.
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April 21, 2018 | 10:03 pm EDT Update
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Scott Kushner: Jrue Holiday: “I feel like the fans needed results and that’s what they’ve gotten. We come out and play hard every night for them to try to win. Like Anthony said it’s just a part of all of our legacies here to try to build something and continually build on it.”
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Jim Eichenhofer: Gentry on #Pelicans: “They’re a resilient group. AD is maturing and becoming a better leader and a better player every day. I said at the start of the season Jrue was going to have his best season ever, and he’s really done that.”