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Gregg Popovich, Spurs prefer not to trade Kawhi Leonard to ‘rival’ Lakers

If Kawhi Leonard wants to play for the Lakers, he might have to wait another year.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

While the Los Angeles Lakers and Kawhi Leonard reportedly have mutual interest in a trade this summer, the San Antonio Spurs and Gregg Popovich don’t plan on helping facilitate a homecoming for Leonard.

According to Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register, Popovich is unwilling to trade Leonard to his hometown Lakers unless the offer is too good to pass up. Even then, he might think twice.

It’s one of Popovich’s cardinal rules not to help Western Conference rivals, much less one with the tradition and resources of the Lakers.

If Leonard is really angling for a trade to the Lakers, he could force the issue to the point where the Spurs have no choice but to trade him before losing him for nothing in 2019, when he’ll hit unrestricted free agency.

However, we have seen in the past that teams are willing to make buy-low trades in hopes of changing a player’s mind before they hit the open market, a la Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Lakers will continue to keep an eye on Leonard’s situation in San Antonio, but according to the front office, their main priority is the draft in June, followed by free agency in July where they’re expected to pursue two max free agents. There’s still a chance Leonard is in a Lakers come tip-off next season, but it’s looking a little less likely now.

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