Call up R.C. Buford and the Spurs’ front office to inquire about the availability of Kawhi Leonard in a trade, and you might hear laughing in the background before you’re hung up on. Right now, the Spurs are not listening to offers and believe they can repair their relationship with Leonard. They’re probably right. Gregg Popovich smoothed over his relationship with LaMarcus Aldridge last summer while the big man was calling Portland trying to get back in. In Leonard’s case, there are 219 million reasons to think the two sides can work this out.
That hasn’t stopped executives from other teams from speculating on Leonard’s future and planning for a potential trade.
Ken Berger of Bleacher Report broke all the chatter down in his new piece on Leonard and the Spurs.
With Leonard, 26, eligible for a five-year, $219 million “super-max” extension this summer, the key question circulating through the league is, “Can the relationship be salvaged?”
“I don’t think it can,” the Western Conference executive said. “At the end of the day, Kawhi wants out.”
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)…
“That’s why [the Lakers] are spinning it into ‘wait till next year,'” the executive said. “They know they can get Kawhi.”
All of this stems back to what I had heard from sources (and something Berger and others have mentioned): Leonard’s “people” were taken aback by the Jordan Brand offer for a new shoe deal (rumored to be four years, $22 million), which they saw as well below market value. Leonard’s group seeks to blame the small market and team-over-all style of San Antonio for this issue. (What they should do is look in the mirror.) They see Los Angeles — or another major market that will play on the league’s biggest stages, such as Philadelphia — as situations that solve their marketing woes. That has led to some in his camp to try to plant the seed about getting out of San Antonio.
Eventually in the coming weeks, when Gregg Popovich is ready (and he should be afforded all the time he needs), the sides will sit down and talk. Based on history — and the fact Leonard will want that $219 million — the smart money is on the two sides working it all out.
But if not, there are 29 other NBA GMs planning right now so they will be ready to pounce.