With the 2018 NBA Draft quickly approaching on June 21, the San Antonio Spurs are in unfamiliar territory. As Kawhi Leonard does not want to return to the team that originally traded for him in the 2011 NBA Draft, he reportedly wants to play in his hometown, preferably for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Since the initial report, the Spurs have not addressed the situation in hopes of meeting with Leonard at some point during the offseason.
After dealing with a similar situation with LaMarcus Aldridge last year, head coach Gregg Popovich met with the 32-year-old where they were able to resolve their issues. With Popovich not ‘overcoaching’ Aldridge during the 2017-18 NBA season, he went on to have his best season in San Antonio, averaging 23.1 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Armed with a five-year, $219 million supermax contract extension, Popovich reportedly traveled to San Diego, CA to meet with his disgruntled superstar, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
Spurs' Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich met on Tuesday in San Diego, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 20, 2018
However, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Leonard still has intentions of signing with Los Angeles in 2019 free agency:
Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said.
Although there are obstacles, this latest update bodes well for president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka. With a competitive young core in place, Los Angeles is becoming an attractive destination again for All-Star players like Leonard.
However, similar to the Paul George situation, there are risks if the Lakers are not able to land Leonard in the offseason via trade. Despite George’s intentions being clear with the Indiana Pacers, the Oklahoma City Thunder still took a chance on him and appear to be in a position to re-sign him after building a strong relationship.
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