Report: Lakers confident they can land Kawhi Leonard
If the relationship between Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs has been damaged beyond repair, at least one team is confident they have a good chance at winding up with the two-time NBA All-Star.
Leonard can opt out of his contract after next season, and a report from about three months ago indicated the Los Angeles Lakers have given up on trying to pursue LeBron James this summer and are instead turning their attention toward a loaded 2019 free agent class. One executive from a Western Conference team told Ken Berger of Bleacher Report that Leonard’s situation has a lot to do with that.
It’s commonly heard on the front office grapevine that Leonard is eyeing the Lakers as a free agent in 2019. One of the Western Conference executives noted it’s no accident that the Lakers reportedly have shifted their free-agent plans to focus on the ’19 class (which Leonard may headline), according to Shelburne and ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, as opposed to a quick fix this summer.
“That’s why [the Lakers] are spinning it into ‘wait till next year,'” the executive said. “They know they can get Kawhi.”
Of course, Leonard’s health is still a major question mark. There’s also the fact that he would be forfeiting a ton of money — roughly $70 million — if he leaves San Antonio as a free agent next year rather than signing a super-max extension with the team.
The Spurs want a healthy and clear-minded Leonard back next season. The 26-year-old looked like he was going to become the face of the franchise after Tim Duncan retired, but his quad injury and the way it has been handled has called all of that into question. While Popovich has a history of mending fences with star players and did it as recently as last year, Leonard’s situation feels different.
If the Spurs believe they have no chance at signing Leonard to an extension, it would make sense to trade him. The Lakers would seemingly be one of the places Leonard’s camp wants him to end up, but he does not have a no-trade clause and won’t necessarily have a say if he’s dealt.