While the Los Angeles Lakers were preparing for the 2018 NBA Draft and start of free agency, they also were involved in a scenario that could have seen Kawhi Leonard fall into their laps. After a season in which he was limited to nine games, Leonard reportedly asked to be traded.
His relationship with the San Antonio Spurs became fractured over a difference of opinion and evaluation of a right quadriceps injury Leonard suffered. The San Antonio medical staff cleared Leonard to return, but he didn’t feel healthy and took his rehab process away from the team.
Subsequent comments made by Gregg Popovich and Tony Parker reportedly played a significant role in Leonard seeking a trade. His preferred destination was believed to be the Lakers, who understandably had mutual interest.
Aside from not simply wanting to give in to Leonard’s request, the Spurs didn’t show much of an inclination to trade him to the Lakers. Initial trade talks between the two teams weren’t said to have gained any traction.
While that was followed by a report that suggested progress was made, the Lakers more recently cooled in their pursuit of Leonard. On Wednesday, the Spurs completed a trade with the Toronto Raptors, with DeMar DeRozan representing the centerpiece of their return.
As for the Lakers, though they were interested, talks with the Spurs didn’t advance much, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:
L.A. bid on Leonard but talks never rose to a serious level, a source familiar with the discussions told Yahoo Sports.
In addition to the Lakers, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers also had dialogue with the Spurs over a potential Leonard trade. The three teams were seemingly turned off by the high asking price for the 27-year-old.
Particularly the Lakers, who reportedly believe they are in the lead to sign Leonard if or when he becomes a free agent in 2019. San Antonio reportedly sought Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and draft compensation from Los Angeles in exchange for Leonard.
While signs point to him remaining insistent on signing with the Lakers next year, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri is comfortable with the challenge of needing to persuade Leonard into re-signing.
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