With Paul George and LeBron James rumors flying in seemingly by the hour with the Los Angeles Lakers repeatedly linked, the storyline that has fallen to the back burner early this summer has been the Kawhi Leonard situation.
After spending what amounted to nearly an entire season away from the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard and the organization have fractured relationship that may or may not be repairable.
In a piece on ESPN from Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard’s relationship with the Spurs is detailed as well as what the future holds. A meeting is expected between Leonard and head coach Gregg Popovich as a starting point to mend broken fences but it may be too little too late depending on the stance each party takes.
In the piece, Wojnarowski also details that the Boston Celtics sent a trade proposal to the Spurs for Leonard and were rebuffed, a stance San Antonio has continued to take this summer so far.
The Boston Celtics made a trade offer to San Antonio before the February deadline, but the Spurs turned it down — and never made a counterproposal, league sources said. San Antonio wasn’t willing to discuss deals for Leonard in February. So far this spring, the Spurs remain resistant to trades.
Wojnarowski also noted that both the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers have made inquiries on Leonard and remain interested in trading for him.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers have interest in Leonard, each with a differing array of young assets to trade for him now and the potential of salary-cap space to sign Leonard outright in 2019.
There is little surprising about this stance from the Spurs who, currently, hold most of the negotiating power in this situation despite Leonard slated for free agency in 2019. The Spurs can still extend a super-max contract offer that would come in at well over $200 million.
However, if the cards play out right for the Lakers this summer and George and James commit to Los Angeles, the Lakers could become more active on their push for Leonard, a move that could force San Antonio’s hand and take away some of the negotiating power.
Still, it’s rare for a player to turn down a max contract offer from the incumbent team and unheard of for a player to turn down an offer of more than $200 million to play basketball. At the end of the day, money talks and despite Los Angeles likely being a more profitable off-court location for Leonard than San Antonio, it’s still unprecedented for a player to turn down a super-max. For now, this should be treated as another long pipe dream for the Lakers and their fans.