Things are messy right now in San Antonio.
With the Spurs first-round exit from the Western Conference playoffs officially ushering in their offseason, all attention turns to star forward Kawhi Leonard, who missed most of the 2017-18 season due to a mysterious quadriceps injury that has created fault lines in the relationship between star and team.
Fault lines so serious that over the past few months, rumors have swirled that the 26-year-old’s time in San Antonio will be coming to an end.
Those rumors seem to have the Spurs seriously spooked, according to a report by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright:
“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 like Los Angeles… or New York or Philadelphia… One source close to general manager R.C. Buford said the longtime executive admitted to him that he’s constantly losing sleep over how and why the relationship with Leonard has disintegrated.”
Much of it appears to be stemming from the fact that the Spurs and Leonard’s camp have not seen eye to eye on the diagnosis or the recovery of this quadriceps injury, which saw Leonard skip town and spend time in New York City to rehab during the season.
But why the reported interest in Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia?
The Lakers and Clippers offer Leonard an opportunity to play in his hometown having been born in Los Angeles while playing his college ball at San Diego State. Per Sam Amick of USA Today, the Clippers have been preparing a trade package since the middle of April.
All that proactivity might not mean a thing for them though as the Lakers, the big brother of LA basketball, is interested in Leonard. And the feeling is mutual, according to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.
But New York has reared its head into the conversation, which was only a matter of time given its big-market status and desperation to emerge from the mediocrity that’s plagued the franchise since the turn of the century.
Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson, played a big part in sending the Spurs star to New York for his rehab and lives in New Jersey, which puts both the Knicks and 76ers in play. The 76ers though have much more to offer San Antonio as they are deep with young talent to sweeten the pot.
At the end of the day, though, Leonard is signed through the 2019-20 season with two years remaining on his five-year, $94.3 million deal. If the Spurs can spend the offseason smoothing things over with their star, then he isn’t going anywhere.
If not, it’s open season for the league on the trade market.