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NBA Trade Rumors: Kawhi Leonard met with Gregg Popovich, is said to prefer Lakers over Clippers in free agency

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Kawhi Leonard and his camp have met with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, and they have a message for teams that might trade for him: Leonard will leave for the Lakers in 2019 free agency if he’s not sent to his preferred destination.

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San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard met with coach Greg Popovich for the first time to discuss his trade demand on Tuesday, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. David Aldridge of NBA.com reported that the meeting was the first time the two had spoken since Leonard demanded a trade, preferably to the Los Angeles Lakers, last week.

Leonard and Popovich were not alone at their meeting, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN, which is significant because Popovich had been said to be seeking a solo meeting with Leonard in order to truly gauge how serious he was about his trade demand.

While there was a report the meeting went well, it is also clear from other reports that Leonard is very serious about his trade demand, and Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN make it seem like Leonard has made those intentions very clear:

Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles -- preferably with the Lakers -- when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said.

While that is probably enough to have Lakers fans celebrating in the streets — prioritizing the Lakers? Saying he’ll sign there in free agency to scare off other teams? — Wojnarowski and Shelburne’s report wasn’t all good news:

The Spurs are unlikely to be motivated to facilitate a deal to the Lakers, league sources said.

That isn’t a change from previous reports about the situation, although it sounds like the Spurs will give Leonard what he wants if the Lakers put the best deal on the table.

This is big for the Lakers on a few fronts. While Leonard’s commitment to get to the purple and gold is probably enough to convince some that the Lakers shouldn’t trade for him, many said the same thing about Paul George last year before he ended up in Oklahoma City and now there are scattered reports he may re-sign with the Thunder. The point is, a bird in the hand is sometimes worth two in the bush, and the Leonard situation is now eerily similar to the George one from last summer, right down to all this movement right before the NBA Draft.

In fact, the timing here for the Lakers might make this summer even trickier. With free agency only a few weeks away and the Spurs not opening up the bidding for Leonard just yet, it appears the Lakers will potentially have to balance ongoing trade negotiations with recruiting free agents, a gambit that could alternately leave them with a big three set to challenge the Golden State Warriors, or left out to dry by all of their superstar targets, depending on how the timing with Leonard, the Spurs and his trade demand shakes out.

This is still obviously a developing situation — for one, this lunch was apparently scheduled before Leonard’s trade demand... Awkward — but it’s also sure to keep the offseason and lead up to the draft and free agency interesting for the Lakers and their fanbase.

Stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll for more on this developing story. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.