In what has been a wild start to the NBA offseason, All-Star Kawhi Leonard reportedly requested to be traded from the San Antonio Spurs, with his preferred destination being the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers.
A disconnect between Leonard and the Spurs organization began during the season, as a mysterious quadriceps injury limited him to just nine games. In line with previous reports, Popovich flew to California to meet with Leonard in effort to mend the relationship.
How successful Popovich was may not be answered for the next several weeks, but early indications aren’t positive for the Spurs.
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne and Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard is particularly upset with remarks Tony Parker and Popovich made in regards to his injury:
Among the issues, Leonard is angry over what he believes was the Spurs’ mishandling of his quad injury, and he remains irate with public comments from teammate Tony Parker and Popovich that he felt were not supportive of him, league sources said.
After reports of a confrontational team meeting in March that centered around Leonard and his status, Parker said the ruptured left quadriceps tendon he suffered during the 2017 NBA Playoffs was a more significant injury than what his teammate was going through.
Parker quickly underwent surgery, completed a lengthy rehab process and was back on the court in November 2017. Leonard did not have surgery and opted to do his recovery away from the team’s medical staff.
That reportedly did not sit well with the Spurs, who although aren’t believed to be shopping Leonard, are willing to listen to trade offers. If Leonard is traded he would no longer be eligible to sign the five-year, $219 million supermax contract.
If Leonard refuses to back off his stance, the Spurs presumably would trade the 26-year-old, even if it means some leverage has been lost. Granted, Paul George attempted to convey he intended to sign with the Lakers, and the Indiana Pacers received what ultimately proved to be an adequate trade package.
San Antonio experienced something similar with LaMarcus Aldrige, which Popovich was able to resolve and keep the talented big man part of the organization.
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