In one of the crazier NBA stories in recent memory, Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs find themselves in a situation filled with drama and uncertainty moving forward.
Leonard missed most of the 2017-18 season due to injury, even though he was reportedly cleared to play by the team doctor late in the season. He did not return as the Spurs were ousted by the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Leonard has reportedly been unhappy with the lack of endorsement money he has garnered thus far, and a recent report states that his family and agency are not fond of San Antonio and the Spurs’ limited market reach.
A league source told Business Insider that Leonard’s agency and family have never been fond of Texas and feel that San Antonio, a small market, has hurt Leonard’s marketability when it comes to sponsors. The same source said Leonard’s shy personality is more to blame for his inability to get more sponsorships than San Antonio’s market size.
The source with knowledge of the Spurs disputed that claim. The person was never aware that Leonard’s camp was ever unhappy with San Antonio.
This is a situation where both sides could be right. The Spurs have had one of the most impressive runs in the history of basketball, being this good for this long. But they have never been seen as a glamorous franchise, no matter how much they continue to win. Marketing a Spurs player to casual basketball fans might not be the easiest thing to do.
On the other hand, Leonard doesn’t do himself any favors with his shy, quiet demeanor. Leonard is undoubtedly a top-ten player in the NBA, but rarely does interviews and when he does, he doesn’t say much. Up until this season, Leonard was basically a basketball robot, hardly ever showing any emotion, outside of the team’s 2014 NBA championship. That’s what makes this story so surprising.
Some of these reports can certainly be taken with a grain of salt, but where there is smoke, there is fire. A lot of reports suggest that Leonard is unhappy in San Antonio, and his contract has just one year left on it.
Will the Spurs look to trade such a talented and valuable player before potentially losing him as a free agent in the summer of 2019? It still feels unlikely at this point, and a lot can change in a short period of time in the NBA. But if the Spurs start shopping Leonard around, you can bet on the Lakers trying to get in on those sweepstakes.
It is hard to imagine the Spurs sending Leonard to a rival like the Lakers, but he is reportedly interested in playing for Los Angeles. Even with his calm and quiet personality, Leonard as a Laker would rake in endorsement money.
This feels like a story that has plenty left to unfold. Perhaps a conclusion will come this summer in the NBA offseason, or maybe it will wait until Leonard’s contract is up next year. Either way, expect the Lakers to be lurking, trying to pry the 2014 NBA Finals MVP away from their rival.