The relationship between the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard has evolved over the past year from distrust to dysfunctional, with both sides playing their part to make it worse. It’s not quite “War of the Roses” bad, but this relationship is beyond repair now.
The Spurs exacerbated the problems — Tony Parker‘s comments about his injury being 100 times worse set things way back — but it’s not like Leonard and his advisors (particularly his uncle the manager) acted like adults through this. Look at these comments from ESPN’s Michael C. Wright on the must-listen “Back To Back” podcast:
“There was a point during [Kawhi’s] rehab process in New York that some of the Spurs brass went out to see him in New York,” Wright said. “As soon as those guys arrived to the building, Kawhi’s people grabbed him and sequestered him to another part of the building. And so the Spurs’ people couldn’t even see him.”
The Spurs have lost leverage in the trade market, and Leonard is a part of that, too. Before a team such as Philadelphia would fully jump in with their best offer (Markelle Fultz?), they are going to want to both get a detailed look at Leonard’s medical reports, then sit down with his “people” and discuss the possibility of him re-signing. Thing is, the Sixers and other NBA teams have no relationship with Leonard’s uncle or other advisors, so they don’t know if they can trust anything he says. (It should be noted at one point Leonard consulted with the Sixers’ team doctor about his quadriceps tendon issue, so they could have some information there.) Teams are not how to even back-channel information well with Leonard.
Maybe this is Leonard’s master plan to force his way to the Lakers (or the Knicks, or the Clippers, or wherever is rumored this hour he wants to play). There is no solid information out there from the ever-quiet Leonard and his camp, which creates a news vacuum — and the Internet abhors a vacuum. So it gets filled with speculation and rumor. However all these vacillating reports — he doesn’t want to play with LeBron James, oh wait yes he still does — do not help Leonard’s image or marketability. Just forcing his way to a major market and playing well is not enough in-and-of-itself to get the kind of shoe/endorsement deal his people want for him, he’s got to open up, do more social media and more. How much of this is driven by Leonard’s desires and how much by the people in his ear remains a good question?
It’s also moot for the Spurs. They need to find the best trade for him they can, and that is not going to be easy.