For decades the San Antonio Spurs operated like a well-oil machined. A franchise built on stars who didn’t seek the personal spotlight. It allowed the Spurs to avoid much of the speculation and drama other teams face. But that changed this season with the Kawhi Leonard saga.
His trouble with the right quadriceps began in March 2016, and it limited him to just nine games this season. Leonard didn’t play until Dec. 12, 2017, and his last time on the court for the Spurs was Jan. 13, 2018.
There have been rumblings about growing mistrust between Leondard and his camp and the Spurs front office. So much so that Gregg Popovich has reportedly considered trading the 2014 NBA Finals MVP.
But according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright, there’s a belief within the Spurs that Leonard’s representatives are attempting to orchestrate a trade that would send him to a bigger market:
Multiple league sources also told ESPN that the Spurs have grown worried that Leonard’s group has an ulterior motive to fray the relationship and get Leonard traded to a larger market such as Los Angeles (Leonard’s hometown) or New York or Philadelphia (Robertson lives in New Jersey).
The sentiment corroborates a recent report that suggested Leonard had a preference to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Armed with plenty of salary cap space and young players, the Lakers have the assets to potentially pursue a deal.
However, Popovich reportedly is against potentially completing a trade with the Lakers, among other teams. Los Angeles themselves may opt to wait out Leonard, who could become a free agent next summer.
Whether Leonard will hit the open market may become more clear within the next few months. He’s eligible for a $219 million supermax contract extension by virtue of being named to the All-NBA Team in two of the past three seasons.
Though, even if Leonard and the Spurs do not come to terms on a new contract this summer, it would hardly be a guarantee that the organization would immediately look to part with the 26-year-old.