Storyline: Kawhi Leonard Trade

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Danny Green: “I don’t think it was due to ill relationships or bad terms with people – regardless of the situation, it happened… There’s a lot of details that fans don’t know about, behind the scenes with players, and I don’t even know. I haven’t had the chance to sit down [with Kawhi]. I feel like we have to have that sit-down. I have to talk to him. I need to know what’s going on. ‘Since I’m with you now, I need to know what’s going on. What happened? What’s going on? Where’s your head at? Because we’re in this together now.'”
3 months ago via ESPN

DeRozan as a centerpiece is a disappointing return, but also one that reflects market realities. Gregg Popovich does not want to finish his career in a rebuild. The Spurs never showed interest in packages — including Boston’s — heavy on picks and unproven players, sources have said. The Celtics would not swap any of their core guys, including Jaylen Brown, perhaps the most interesting Leonard trade chip in the league, without some assurances about Leonard’s health and future plans, sources have said.
3 months ago via ESPN

Philadelphia’s potential package of Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 pick didn’t move the needle. It’s unclear if the Spurs had interest in Markelle Fultz; the two sides never discussed him seriously, and the Sixers would not have parted with him, sources say. The Spurs made it clear any deal with Philly would require Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid (likely Simmons), and the Sixers weren’t going anywhere near that, league sources say.

Is Kawhi Leonard up to something? After the embattled forward was traded to the Toronto Raptors by the San Antonio Spurs along with Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first-round pick, a highly intriguing rumor was floated by Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star during a recent appearance on the Back to Back Podcast. According to Arthur, he has heard of a story that Leonard is planning to form a new superteam in the NBA, contacting other stars to convince them to play together on the same team.

Alex Kennedy: Fred VanVleet texted me this quote in response to the Spurs-Raptors trade. I added it to our recent Q&A, which was a wide-ranging conversation covering a ton of topics.

3 months ago via ESPN

Despite being eligible to receive a five-year super max extension this summer worth $221 million from the Spurs, Leonard wanted out of San Antonio for myriad reasons. He felt betrayed by the team for the handling of the quadriceps injury that kept him out of all but nine games last season — plus, Leonard’s camp believes the Spurs misdiagnosed a 2014 wrist injury as well — and also for the resistance encountered from the franchise when seeking outside opinions. Not to mention what seemed to be public questioning of the situation by members of the organization, with sources saying the forward had been medically cleared to play since December.
3 months ago via ESPN

The franchise harbored some ill will, too, but considered Leonard such an important commodity it was willing to work through the difficult times toward resolution. The Spurs disliked ceding control in August of Leonard’s medical care to outside doctors and were miffed by the handling of the entire situation by the forward’s representation — namely uncle Dennis Robertson — who, like Leonard, didn’t necessarily excel in the communication department, according to sources.

Eddie Sefko: Here’s how much Kawhi Leonard trade impacted NBA title odds? (odds on July 2 to current): Warriors 21/20 to 4.7, Celtics 4/1 to, 11/2, Lakers 7/2 to 7/1, Rockets 13/2 to 15/2, 76ers 12/1 to 16/1, Raptors 60/1 to 18/1, Thunder 60/1 to 40/1, Spurs 50/1 to 66/1. Jazz 80/1 to 90/1
3 months ago via ESPN

Bobby Marks, ESPN: Here are the financial implications for Toronto by acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green: The Raptors now have a payroll of $139.1M and a current tax bill of $29.8M. Danny Green is in the last year of his contract with a cap hit of $10M. Leonard will have a cap hit of $23.1M (including the trade bonus) and has a $21.3M player option for 2019-20. If Leonard elects to leave as a free agent in 2019, Toronto will have $101.6M in guaranteed salary and will be over the salary cap based on the team options of Pascal Siakam ($2.4M), Malachi Richardson ($2.6M), OG Anunoby ($2.3M) and $7.6M free agent hold of Delon Wright. The Raptors could create some flexibility if Jonas Valanciunas ($17.6M) and CJ Miles ($8.7M) opt-out of their contract. If Leonard returns, the first year cap hit projects to be $32.7M. In 2020-21, Toronto only has the $10.9M Norman Powell salary and $3.9M OG Anunoby team option counting against the cap.

Q: Raptors fans have a lot of faith in Masai Ujiri — we really credit him for turning our franchise around after trading Rudy Gay in 2013. But where does he go from here? — Dan Schechner (Toronto) MARC STEIN: I just spent a few days at the N.B.A.’s annual summer league in Las Vegas, where buzz about Toronto trying to work its way into the Kawhi Leonard trade sweepstakes was constant. But is it real? The offshore oddsmakers who establish betting lines on these things certainly think so, because the Raptors have suddenly emerged as the bookies’ favorites to land Leonard via trade. I can’t say I’d make the same forecast — at least not yet.

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.
3 months ago via ESPN

Pau Gasol is currently under contract with the San Antonio Spurs. If what I am hearing comes to fruition, that contract will be relocated to Philadelphia and the 7-foot Spaniard will be teaming up with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons next season. When you are having simultaneous conversations with people all around the world and not a single person is telling you “That is untrue,” you have a smoke/fire situation. And what I am hearing is that a trade scenario that would send Gasol to the 76ers is very much in play as one of the various Kawhi Leonard deals being pondered by the San Antonio Spurs.

Nearly half a dozen GMs told Bleacher Report during the first weekend of the Las Vegas Summer League that they would trade for Leonard even without a guarantee he’ll stay beyond next season. There is, after all, precedent for players being traded to a team and vowing they won’t stay before changing their minds a year later. … “I wouldn’t say we’re all scared to death to make a deal because there’s no chance he’ll re-sign [with a team somewhere other than L.A.],” said the Eastern Conference GM. “PG did. C-Webb did.”

And then there is the fact that the Spurs have yet to concede they have to trade Leonard and remain hopeful they can convince him to accept their offer of a supermax contract worth $219 million over five years, according to league sources. Given San Antonio’s stance, opposing teams are reluctant to name players they’d be willing to trade and risk having those names getting out into the public, potentially injuring the team’s relationship with those players if a deal is never done.

Several GMs noted that the Spurs’ willingness to let point guard Tony Parker leave in free agency could be seen as an olive branch of sorts to Leonard. Parker, who signed a two-year deal with the Charlotte Hornets after 17 seasons with the Spurs, was reportedly the most vocally accusatory in a late-season players-only meeting in which Leonard had the severity of his injury questioned. “They’re trying to give the impression that they don’t have to trade Kawhi,” said one Western Conference GM, who stated he also would make an offer for Leonard if he knew more about his condition and mindset. “The Spurs only like to deal when they have tremendous leverage,” he added. “Now they don’t have it, and they’re trying to create it.”

The Philadelphia 76ers have consistently remained atop the list of teams expected to land Leonard. There is an obvious connection between the franchises with Coach Brett Brown, Gregg Popovich’s longtime assistant, now running the Sixers, plus the fact Philadelphia is in the Eastern Conference and the Sixers have the talent to make a deal. The one thing that was consistent was that such a deal will likely hinge on whether Philadelphia makes Markelle Fultz available. If the Sixers do, it’ll be hard for another team to top their offer.

By far the most glaring question mark hovers above superstar San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard. Quite literally no one knows (or will even whisper) what will happen with the former Finals MVP. But Kawhi is the talk in the casinos. He’s the talk on The Strip. He’s the talk throughout the Thomas & Mack. “It’s weird, right? Where do you think he goes?” asks a Western Conference executive. He never expected the Spurs to be in a position in which the face of the franchise wants out. “You gotta expect that he’s gone sooner than later. You don’t want that dragging into the season. And for someone like Kawhi, you absolutely have to get something in return. … It’s like the entire league is just waiting on the shoe to drop.”

The Spurs exacerbated the problems — Tony Parker‘s comments about his injury being 100 times worse set things way back — but it’s not like Leonard and his advisors (particularly his uncle the manager) acted like adults through this. Look at these comments from ESPN’s Michael C. Wright on the must-listen “Back To Back” podcast: “There was a point during [Kawhi’s] rehab process in New York that some of the Spurs brass went out to see him in New York,” Wright said. “As soon as those guys arrived to the building, Kawhi’s people grabbed him and sequestered him to another part of the building. And so the Spurs’ people couldn’t even see him.”

Kawhi Leonard not that into Clippers

Adrian Wojnarowski: “I’ve been told that one of the reasons [Kawhi Leonard] looks at going to the Clippers – is a little less motivated [to go to the Clippers] is because initially, the idea of Los Angeles was fine to him – he preferred the Lakers but was all right with the Clippers – but now that LeBron James is there, the idea of going head-to-head with LeBron – to have Kawhi with the Clippers and LeBron with the Lakers, and to maybe feel dwarfed by that – I’m told that’s become far less appealing for him.”
3 months ago via ESPN

I know this might sound like a roll of the dice, but if I’m the Raptors, I would pick up the phone and tell Spurs GM R.C. Buford that he can choose a package featuring DeMar DeRozan. Yes, I get that you’d be giving up three years of DeRozan for Leonard’s expiring contract. But let’s face it: Toronto is third in the East pecking order behind Boston and Philadelphia. With LeBron out West, I would take a chance on Leonard if he looks healthy. Add Danny Green’s $10 million contract to Leonard, and a deal for DeRozan works.

Kawhi Leonard is the kind of whale who could put the Heat in position to win the East. He’s 27, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time All-NBA selection and looking badly to get out of San Antonio and a relationship that has gone sour. The problem is Leonard is showing signs he only wants to be a Laker. According to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Leonard may even be willing to sit out next season to prove his point. Riley, a league source said, is unwilling to trade a king’s ransom for a player entering the final season of his contract who will not commit to a long term deal to stay with the Heat.

With LeBron officially agreeing to sign with the Lakers, it’ll be fascinating to monitor what type of leverage the Spurs can create for Kawhi Leonard, who still desires to play for the Lakers, according to multiple league sources—all of whom say offers to the Spurs have been underwhelming. One executive said the proposed packages have gotten worse with each round of negotiations, while another said they’re flat-out unacceptable. That might change if the Lakers are determined to add their second star now. Multiple league sources suggest the Lakers could send a package to the Spurs featuring Ingram, multiple first-round picks, a sign-and-trade involving Randle, and possibly Josh Hart.
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October 16, 2018 | 3:39 pm EDT Update
In China, he was unable to communicate, and therefore out of his element. A player from another team taught Whiteside how to greet: “Wǒ shì nǐ bàba”—hi, nice to meet you. He said it to everyone at home, on the road, in the gym. There were never any “you, too’s” in return, only blank stares. Well into the season, Whiteside found out from his team’s general manager that he was actually saying “I’m your daddy.” Whiteside immediately recognized the player in the layup line a year later, after he had left for Lebanon again, then returned back to China. He wishes he had dunked on him. Wǒ shì nǐ bàba.
That progress stalled in the 2017-18 season. And it felt impossible to get in gear from the sidelines. “Especially,” Whiteside says, “when you can see a game and you know you can help.” We’re settled inside now, sitting in leather chairs made for 7-footers. Last season’s body language experts would be picking him apart: slumped shoulders, looking in the distance as he’s talking. “Maybe our record would have been different. We would have been a whole different seed in the playoffs.” He knows he was sluggish after missing so much time—28 games total, nine in March. Less agile, slower, and trying to catch up on Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra’s schemes. I ask if he feared being forgotten again. “I can avoid that,” he says. Avoid what? “Falling back to people not knowing.”