NBA trade rumors about Kawhi Leonard have been flying fast ever since it leaked that he had asked the San Antonio Spurs to trade him, preferably to the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, since those reports started to drop, there hasn’t been much tangible information available, other than that the Lakers don’t want to deal for Leonard without getting clarity on his complicated injury situation and that the Spurs would prefer not to deal him to Los Angeles.
Making things more complicated — and slowing the process down — is that the Spurs have evidently not allowed any teams to speak with Leonard’s agent, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.
“To my knowledge as we’re recording this at 2:19 eastern time on Monday, no team has even gotten close to getting permission to talk to Kawhi’s agent, and any team who is not in Los Angeles — and even those teams — should want to do that before they throw anything like the No. 2 pick to San Antonio.”
Permission to speak to Leonard’s agent is a necessary step for teams looking to do due diligence on Leonard’s health and his willingness to stay with them if they trade for him, but it’s also a step that can’t happen without the Spurs’ permission unless an organization wants to risk a a tampering charge, as outlined by Larry Coon in his invaluable CBA FAQ:
Tampering is when a player or team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anybody (player, general manager, etc.) who is under contract with another team in order to negotiate for their services. The NBA may impose suspensions and/or fines up to $50,000 if tampering is discovered, however the league’s practice has been to wait until a team lodges a complaint before investigating (but that’s not to say they don’t continue to monitor the league and won’t take action independently if they discover that tampering has occurred).
The Lakers have been fined for tampering twice under their new-ish front office of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, once for tampering with Paul George and once for comments Johnson made about Giannis Antetokounmpo. Because of those scars, by all accounts they are being very careful to avoid a third infraction.
However, the situation with Leonard is complicated, as his uncle is also serving as his agent, a complication Lowe and ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony discussed on the same podcast:
Givony: ”Do you have to ask for permission to talk to his uncle also, or how does that work?”
Lowe: ”I don’t even know. I’d have to review his uncle’s status, whether he’s a registered agent, or agent adjacent. Maybe you don’t, you probably don’t.”
Givony: “That’s probably the guy you need to talk to, right?”
Lowe: (audible sigh) ”Oh boy, that is a whole mess. That situation is just a mess.”
Maybe semantically a team could get away with talking to Leonard’s uncle if they claimed they were talking to him as his uncle and not as his agent, but that seems unlikely, and it seems even more unlikely that doing so is something the Lakers would risk given their history over the last year.
No, more likely this just means that the Leonard situation is going to continue to crawl towards a resolution, and that it’s extremely unlikely it will be resolved with the perfect type of timing the Lakers would need to use it to create their own superteam.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.