San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard is the hottest name on the NBA trade market now that his relationship with the team has deteriorated past the point of no return. The Southern California native is rumored to prefer to be dealt to Los Angeles, which would land him with either the Lakers or Clippers.
Now that LeBron James has agreed to join the Lakers on a four-year deal, Leonard’s preferences have apparently become even more defined.
On “The Woj Pod,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explained that Leonard is not as interested in going to the Clippers now that James is with the Lakers:
“I’ve been told that one of the reasons why he looks at going to the Clippers or is a little less motivated is I think initially the idea of L.A. was fine to him. He preferred the Lakers but was open to the Clippers. But now that LeBron is in L.A., I think the idea of going head-to-head with LeBron, to have (Kawhi) with the Clippers, him with the Lakers, and to maybe feel dwarfed by that, I’m told that’s become far less appealing to him.”
This isn’t altogether surprising, as James makes the Lakers a much more attractive destination for any free agent, but it’s still an important tidbit. Leonard has a player option that will allow him to become a free agent in the summer of 2019, and the belief is that he is informing non-Los Angeles teams that he will not re-sign with them if they trade for him.
If suitors like the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers take Leonard at his word, they will most likely not offer much to a potential one-year rental.
If Leonard has indeed soured on joining the Clippers as well, that could leave the Lakers in a very strong bargaining position.
That said, the Spurs are determined to get top dollar from their star, so until both sides find a deal they can live with, the Leonard trade saga will go on.
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