The NBA rumors surrounding the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard are growing increasingly clear, with a new report that the team ignored a trade offer from the Celtics earlier this year and appear more determined than ever to ink a huge contract extension with their star forward.
The tension between Leonard and team management has dragged on for most of the season, with his mysterious absence during an injury rehab fueling rumors that the team will be trading him. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Spurs are planning a meeting with Leonard and coach Gregg Popovich and will need to get Leonard’s commitment to the team. If this happens, the Spurs will be able to offer the $219 million supermax deal.
The San Antonio Spurs have already pushed away other trade offers for Kawhi Leonard, with Wojnarowski reporting that the Boston Celtics offered a deal mid-season that never prompted a response from the Spurs.
“Sooner than later, there will be a meeting set with Gregg Popovich and Leonard,” he reported. “It’s still in the planning stages. They have been in contact, but there will be a conversation — or, perhaps, a series of them — about whether a lasting trust and partnership can be rebuilt. They’ll have to talk about medical care and treatment. They’ll have to talk about Leonard’s relationship with the coaching staff and his teammates, which is strained. They’ll have to talk about the franchise’s willingness to deliver the five-year, $219 million contract extension Leonard is eligible to receive, because the Spurs will need to be convinced that a historic contract is met with historic commitment.”
The Spurs pulled off a similar move last year, pushing through tensions with LaMarcus Aldridge to regain his commitment to the team.
The Spurs’ apparent commitment to keeping their star forward hasn’t stopped other teams from angling to land Kawhi Leonard if the relationship with the Spurs can’t be mended. Bleacher Report noted that a handful of teams have expressed interest in the talented big man, including the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Should the Spurs and Leonard not reach a deal, it would add even more intrigue to an already busy offseason. Both LeBron James and Paul George are expected to hit free agency, creating a possible shake-up in the power structure in the Eastern Conference. Reports pegged both the Lakers and Sixers as potential landing points for both stars, and if Kawhi Leonard is added to the mix it could allow either of those teams become an immediate title contender.