Storyline: Kawhi Leonard Trade?

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David Griffin: “San Antonio is not into media frenzies. Until the have a conversation with Kawhi Leonard, and he looks coach Popovich and R.C. Buford in the eye and says ‘guys I want out’ none of this means anything. It really doesn’t it. It’s a lot to talk about. It’s a fascinating story. It’s wonderful in some ways that they are not apart of that media frenzy, but what has made them special is that they have ignored the noise for 21 years. They didn’t forget how to do that because there is some scuttlebutt out there. Be really careful to buying into the notion that they have to do something. Those dudes have been phenomenal at not forcing anything until it was absolutely time in their own minds. If something happens relative to the draft, it’s because they heard something directly from him and not what we heard.”
1 day ago via Patreon

Peter Vecsey: Combined with the incontrovertible fact that Kawhi’s placid personality is a perfect fit in San Antonio and torturously unfit to cope with the media madness of Los Angeles and New York — even Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami — I’m convinced a reconciliation is imminent. The fact Kawhi is building a home in San Antonio for himself, and one, I’m told, for his mother, somewhat bolsters that conclusion … though athletes’ custom-made residences certainly don’t guarantee an iota of permanency.
1 day ago via Patreon

Peter Vecsey: In a cell conversation yesterday with Kawhi’s fringe friend (see above car quote), my first words were ones I’ve often promoted: “You know, I’m only as good as my source. What can you tell me?” Enough so that I’m thoroughly disinclined to believe Kawhi and Pop can’t patch things up, predominantly because their relationship isn’t in need of a large patch. From what I’m told, they’ve never exchanged harsh words or gone off on each other. A single problem existed last season that would not go away: Kawhi’s caregivers and doctors felt his repaired quad wasn’t entirely healthy when he returned 28 games into the season. After nine, some very effective, minute-monitored games, they insisted he return to rehab.
1 day ago via Patreon

Peter Vecsey: But there is a reason they’re called ‘team’ doctors, and not players’ doctors … they’re paid by the team. “The media made it seem as if the Spurs and Kawhi’s people weren’t communicating. Like they didn’t know where he was and how things were going,” my source said. “They were in constant touch. I think Pop made Mitch wear a helmet cam. “The Spurs had their opinion regarding what should be done. Kawhi’s people disagreed. I don’t see any reason why both sides can’t move forward together.”

Several league sources told me they anticipate Suns general manager Ryan McDonough to probe a Leonard deal using the no. 1 pick. Phoenix explored Irving trades last summer but was reluctant to deal Josh Jackson, whom they selected with the fourth overall pick. Leonard is better than Irving, so perhaps it’s time for the Suns to strike now, when they’re armed with assets and an opportunity to trade for a transcendent player. There’s also a sense from league sources that the Suns presumed selection of Arizona big man Deandre Ayton at no. 1 isn’t a guarantee because of the outside possibility that they’ll get a good enough deal to trade down or out of the draft entirely. Now that Leonard reportedly wants out, anything is possible.

If offers are underwhelming this month and into free agency, league sources anticipate that the Spurs will drag this out if necessary to drive up the price. The New York Times’ Marc Stein said the Spurs still haven’t “yet” made Leonard available. The fact that Leonard’s camp leaked that he wants out (even before he met face-to-face with Popovich, per Chris Haynes) is an indication that his camp is trying to escalate the situation in order to force the Spurs to trade him.

The good news for the Knicks is that Spurs coach/president Gregg Popovich likes Knicks young point guard Frank Ntilikina a lot. The bad news for the Knicks is, Popovich also loves Kristaps Porzingis — whose inclusion is probably the only way a Kawhi Leonard deal gets done. According to sources, Knicks brass was interested in pursuing Spurs forward Leonard as a free agent in 2019. But now it looks like Leonard could hit the trade market after a series of reports stated he wants out of San Antonio.
6 days ago via ESPN

Sixers, Lakers interested in trading for Kawhi Leonard

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.

Rob Lopez: Woj says Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard will sit down to talk between now and the 2018 NBA draft. He says a lot of teams would love to get involved in trade talks for Kawhi but the Spurs are not entertaining offers right now.

You made headlines after saying Kawhi Leonard told you he wanted to be back with the Spurs. Can you elaborate? Danny Green: I just put out what I know, and that’s not much. I talk to (Leonard) as much as I can, but I don’t talk to him that much as a whole. He stresses the same thing to me as he stresses to (the media). There is no news. He says he wants to be a Spur and retire there. He said that to you. He’s expressed that. When I talked to him, he says he’s been with us, he’s always on board with us and (wanted) to be a part of what we did, and he’s trying to get right. But things may change.

Marc Stein: “Kawhi Leonard is such a transformational player that–obviously, teams are gonna have questions. And any team that would theoretically trade for him would have to take a super long look at where he is physically. But as mysterious as this all has been, I certainly haven’t sensed any hesitation in the masses that wanna jump in on the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes. If the Spurs said, ‘We’re just gonna trade this guy,’ I still think the line would be out the door for him even with all the questions about his health.”

The Heat will closely monitor the Kawhi Leonard situation, and the San Antonio Express News reports the Spurs hope to meet with Leonard and his representatives soon in a bid to repair their strained relationship (resulting from different approaches on treatment of a quad injury) and potentially offer Leonard a five-year $219 million supermax contract that he will be eligible to receive starting July 1. The Express News reported that the Spurs will be forced to explore trading Leonard if “attempts to patch up the relationship fail.” A Heat package could include all or some combination of Dragic, Richardson, Winslow and Adebayo.

The best the Cavs can hope for is that James can find it within himself to pull the team out of this hole, complete an eighth consecutive trip to the Finals and then fail to find the free-agent options as appealing as he may have hoped. “He’s not going to the Lakers, because they know they can get Kawhi [Leonard] next summer,” the agent said. “If I’m the Sixers, I have to think about what it means to bring in LeBron and take the ball out of Ben Simmons’ hands. Simmons is useless when he’s not controlling the ball. Is LeBron going to give up the ball?”

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.”

The Spurs, though, have a difficult decision on their hands. Do you invest the richest contract in franchise history for a player who didn’t exactly rush back to play this season and who has missed a ton of games over his career? In his first six seasons, Leonard missed 78 games. This year he was out 73. That’s nearly two full seasons of games missed in seven years. “Don’t you have to sign him,” asks one rival executive. “From what I understand, he wants (Gregg) Popovich to lighten up a little with practice and tweak some things. The Spurs may not want to change their ways, but this is Kawhi Leonard we’re talking about.”
2 months ago via ESPN

An all-hands-on-deck summer meeting with star forward Kawhi Leonard sits high on the priority list for the San Antonio Spurs, according to sources, as the team enters a pivotal offseason in the wake of Tuesday’s 99-91 season-ending loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference playoffs. “Kawhi, everybody asks questions, but he’s still here,” guard Danny Green said. “He’s still locked in. He’s a part of the team until things change.”

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.”

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.
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