LAS VEGAS — Right now there is a staring contest going on in the Kawhi Leonard trade situation, each side waiting for the other to blink. On one side are the Philadelphia 76ers, Lakers, and any other team trying to get into the trade mix, all hoping that the Spurs will lower their incredibly high trade demands for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. On the other side there is the Spurs, waiting for the Sixers/Lakers/anyone to up their offers and start putting in their best (or near best) prospects.
Complicating it all is Leonard himself and his inexperienced management team.
Teams want more information on Leonard’s health issues and his mindset. Sources have told me that before, and Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report got into that in more detail.
The first catch, though, is that Leonard’s agent, Mitch Frankel, has no other significant clients and only has been representing Leonard the last couple of years. Hence, he has no established trust with NBA GMs, the kind of trust that allows a team to ask Frankel what its chance would be to keep Leonard long-term and believe whatever he might say is a true reflection of his client’s feelings….
“It seems like every other player is putting out a video on social media of them working out,” said the Eastern Conference GM. “If Kawhi did one, he’d instantly get 35,000 hits, and half of them would be from NBA GMs. How can you make a deal or even an offer without knowing if he can play? He’s got to be seen. If he came out and played in preseason and looked good, you’d definitely see teams trying harder to get him.”
It’s not just one thing dragging out the Leonard process, it’s a lot of different things coming together in just the right way.
Part of this is on Leonard. The way he and his team have handled this situation — justified in his frustrations or not — has taken the image of a guy who was old school and just wanted to ball, and made him look more like a diva. What he has done is within his rights, but the team around him wants to increase his brand and marketing opportunities, and this is not helping that cause. Sports fans are increasingly turned off by it, even if they admit what he’s done is within his rights.
At some point one side will blink. The only question is will that happen: in the coming weeks, or August, or close to the start of the season, or at the trade deadline?. Nobody knows. Not even Leonard.