The Los Angeles Lakers and their fans seemed to get good news Friday, when it leaked that Kawhi Leonard had the team at the top of his wish list of trade destinations for the San Antonio Spurs to send him to.
Leonard even seems to be putting his money where his mouth is, as he reportedly isn’t worried about missing out on the supermax contract only the Spurs can offer him.
So why hasn’t there been more movement on the trade (or trade rumors) front over the weekend? Well, according to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times, it’s because the Spurs and Lakers (and LA Clippers) haven’t even started to talk about Leonard trades because they want to know how injured he really is:
Neither the Lakers nor Clippers have had trade discussions with the Spurs, as both teams have concerns about the severity of Leonard’s injury. He spent several months away from the team while rehabbing, which led to public barbs from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich about Leonard’s absence — an unusual move for the Spurs.
The Lakers wanting to do their due diligence makes sense, and even more so when it appears that the Spurs and Leonard (very publicly) could not agree on what exactly his injury is, a bizarre situation Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright of ESPN thoroughly detailed back in May:
Leonard’s camp believes his condition is the result of a series of contusions to the quadriceps that began with one very deep bruise in March 2016 that caused him to miss three games. Leonard was again listed with a “quad contusion” on the Feb. 6, 2017, injury report, when he was a late scratch before a game. But it wasn’t until the end of last season when the severity of the injury became apparent.
According to multiple sources, Leonard’s camp has come to believe the issue has more to do with an ossification, or hardening, in the area where the muscle has been repeatedly bruised, and then an atrophy, which in turn affected the tendons connecting the muscle to the knee.
The Spurs have always called the injury quadriceps tendinopathy, which is a disease of the tendon that has a degenerative effect on the muscle by keeping it in a constant state of exhaustion.
So if there is that much of a lack of clarity about what Leonard’s injury even is, it makes sense that trade talks are in a holding pattern until the Lakers can find out more. The Lakers front office would surely not want to give up any of their valuable young players or future assets in a trade without knowing how injured the player they’d be trading for really is, and the Spurs probably want to play their information close to the vest as they canvas the league for the best deal for Leonard.
Long story short, this situation seems unlikely to be resolved soon, which could theoretically be a problem for the Lakers as the start of free agency draws closer. Beginning July 1, the Lakers will have to start making concrete decisions about what players they want to pursue and how to use their cap space to either chase superstars, re-sign Julius Randle, or both.
If the Lakers commit to any of those directions without a deal for Leonard, it might be hard to make the math to acquire him later, so the front office will be up against the clock as they try to figure out the best way to use their combination of cap space, young players and future assets to build the best team possible for now, and the future. How quickly they can learn as much as possible about the nature of Leonard’s injury will almost assuredly be a huge factor in that decision-making process.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.