Kawhi Leonard will reportedly sit out the 2018-19 season if not traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Except, probably not.
Kawhi Leonard got the NBA offseason after to roaring start by requesting to be traded by the San Antonio Spurs. His preferred destination is the Los Angeles Lakers. With LeBron James joining the Lakers, the destination became that much more attractive.
Since his trade request, the Spurs have reportedly fielded offers from the Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and who knows who else. Thus far, there has been no movement. Now, Kawhi is ready to take drastic measures.
According to ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, if a deal is going to go down between the Lakers, it’ll be in the next two days, before the Lakers move on. If the deal can’t be struck, Smith said he’s hearing from executives, Leonard is ready to sit out the 2018-19 season if the Spurs don’t trade him.
“Because of the personality of Kawhi Leonard and what transpired last season they said to me don’t rule out the possibility of Kawhi Leonard sitting out next season before he is willing to come back to the San Antonio Spurs. That is how badly he wants out. That is how badly he wants to remain in LA.”
Keep in mind, Stephen A. is more “hot take” than “trusted source.” He also has a good relationship with the Lakers organization and Magic Johnson. To me, this is him creating leverage for his buddy in L.A. Either the Spurs get spooked that it might be true, leading them to pull a trigger on a deal. Or other teams think it’s true and pull their offers, leaving only the Lakers deal on the table.
This whole process is nothing more than a game of chicken. Will the Spurs blink first and take the best offer currently out there, feeling there is no repairing the relationship with Leonard? Or will the Lakers make them an offer worth considering, leaving the Spurs satisfied with the return?
It’ll most likely be the latter. The Lakers need a co-star for LeBron. They can’t afford to wait a year, taking Leonard at his word that he’s going to sign in Los Angeles no matter what. That didn’t work so well in their pursuit of Paul George.
Sure, they have LeBron now. But if the Spurs deal Leonard to Philadelphia, would he really leave that core and a guaranteed trip to at least the Eastern Conference Finals for an aging LeBron out West?
If you’re Los Angeles, it’s not a risk you can afford take. They know it. And that’s why they’ll come to an agreement with the Spurs sooner rather than later.