After decades of functioning almost flawlessly, the San Antonio Spurs have experienced internal turmoil as Kawhi Leonard and the front office are seemingly at odds. The former MPV candidate appeared in just eight games this season, last playing Jan. 13.
Leonard has sought medical opinions of those outside the Spurs organization for a quad injury, and is currently continuing with his rehab in New York. Leonard was not with the team for their first two playoff games and isn’t expected to be on the bench for Game 3 in San Antonio.
The disconnect with their star play reportedly has Gregg Popovich contemplating trading Leonard this summer. It’s believed some teams have already begun to put together trade offers for the 26-year-old.
According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, the Los Angeles Lakers may be in strong position to potentially complete a trade, as one executive believes it’s where Leonard wants to play:
“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.”
A general manager added the Lakers’ acquiring Leonard at some point has a high probability:
“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.”
Further complicating matters is the Spurs could offer Leonard super-max contract worth $219 million this July, which would be quite a substantial deal for him to leave on the table. There is precedent with Kyrie Irving and Paul George doing so, but it would still be a surprise decision.
Additionally, rather than tap into their young core and lose assets via trade, the Lakers simply could opt to wait for Leonard to possibly reach free agency. President of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have both stressed the team does not view this summer as all or nothing.