The Los Angeles Lakers may have just received the best news of the summer.
As the free agency period approaches, the San Antonio Spurs have been told by Kawhi Leonard’s camp that the superstar forward wants to be traded. With that in mind, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich traveled to Southern California to meet with Leonard about his request, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.
That may be for naught as according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Leonard did not want to meet with Popovich and has been planning on keeping his trade request.
Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said.
Leonard will be a free agent in 2019 and if his ultimatum is to sign with the Lakers the Spurs may find it difficult to find a better trade offer for the forward than the one the Lakers would present. Nevertheless, the Spurs would prefer not to trade Leonard to the Lakers where he could feasibly create a super-team with other rumored targets LeBron James and Paul George, according to Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. The Spurs are also reportedly not interested in taking Lonzo Ball back in a trade.
But Leonard has been reportedly difficult to reach for Spurs officials and has become distant with the team due to their treatment of his high profile injury. Leonard was reportedly angered by Tony Parker, in particular, for his public comments about the injury. According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, Leonard had “told confidants” that he did not want to meet with Popovich.
The Spurs plan remains to work things out with Leonard, as Popovich famously did with LaMarcus Aldridge last year. But they have, for the first time, quietly told teams to prepare trade offers for the former Defensive Player of the Year.
The Kawhi saga seems to be nearing a climax with the 2018 NBA Draft just two days away and free agency fast approaching. Leonard’s status could be the first domino to fall in a potentially busy offseason for the Lakers.