The curious disconnect between Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs may be coming to a head, as a report indicated Gregg Popovich was open to the possibility of trading the former MVP candidate.
As it stands, Leonard has just one year remaining on his contract. However, the Spurs can offer him an extension this summer in excess of $200 million. Some, such as Kyrie Irving and Paul George, have opted against signing such a deal.
However, the more common decision has been for a player to take the guaranteed money. What Leonard may opt for is anyone’s guess. He reportedly has a preference to be traded to the Lakers.
That may prove to be a difficult, if not impossible scenario. According to Mark Heisler of the Southern California News Group, Popovich refuses to trade with a team such as the Lakers:
It’s one of Popovich’s cardinal rules not to help Western Conference rivals, much less one with the tradition and resources of the Lakers.
The Lakers have young players in Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma they can build a trade package around, but lack sufficient or enticing draft picks. In comparison, the Boston Celtics are armed with a slew of picks.
Moreover, L.A. could simply decide against breaking up their young core, instead focus on signing at least one of LeBron James and Paul George this summer, and then make a run at Leonard should he become a 2019 free agent.
It remains entirely plausible that Popovich and the Spurs refuse to trade Leonard at this time, or at all. They went through a similar scenario with LaMarcus Aldridge, which prompted Popovich to have a heart-to-heart discussion with his disgruntled big man.
Popovich admitted to self reflection and a need to improve, which led to a blossoming relationship with Aldridge. And though the situation with Leonard may appear beyond repair, if anyone is capable of getting it back on track, it’s Popovich and the Spurs.