San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reportedly flew out to California on Tuesday to meet with disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard. According to reports, the meeting between Pop and Kawhi had been planned for weeks, and was not a response to Leonard’s trade demands that recently became public.
The two were expected to discuss the fractured relationship between Leonard and the Spurs organization, which has left Leonard feeling “uncomfortable with the Spurs organization” and eyeing a trade to Los Angeles, preferably to the Lakers. Leonard, who has one year left on his contract, is eligible to sign a five-year $219 million super max deal with the Spurs this Summer, but it has become clear he has no interest in doing so.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne:
“Leonard had told confidants that he did not want to sit down with Popovich and has been purposely difficult for the Spurs to reach recently. Among the issues, Leonard is angry over what he believes was the Spurs’ mishandling his quad injury, and he remains irate with public comments from teammate Tony Parker and Popovich that he felt were not supportive him, league sources said.”
The Spurs do not have to facilitate a trade to the Lakers simply because that’s Leonard’s preference. However, if he is unwilling to sign an extension with anyone but the Lakers, other teams will be reluctant to send valuable assets in exchange for a player who can walk as a free agent next summer.
According to ESPN, the Spurs have been largely reluctant to give teams guidance on the players, or packages, that would interest them in trades.