It was only a matter of time before we got our latest update on the status of the Kawhi Leonard trade talks between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, although the latest NBA rumors make it sound like those are far from the only two teams talking about the star.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the Spurs were not able to get much of a “bidding war” started between the Lakers, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, and have expanded the field of teams they’re talking to to include the LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards.
Still, Wojnarowski and Shelburne also report that these teams still aren’t offering the Spurs their best assets due to fear that Leonard will bolt for Los Angeles and that his quiet nature will make him difficult to recruit in-house in the way Paul George was with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season.
And if those teams aren’t rushing to give up the farm for Leonard, then it would make sense that the Lakers aren’t going to bid against themselves in order to go get him. According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, that’s exactly how Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are approaching things:
So far, the Lakers are playing the longer game in trade talks, confident in the belief that Leonard wants to play with them and plans to sign in free agency in July of 2019.
Wojnarowski and Shelburne cite Portland not including CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard in their offers as an example of how teams won’t include their best players or assets in a prospective deal for Leonard, and if that’s accurate, then the Lakers don’t really have to try to outbid the rest of the bag of wet garbage that is Portland’s roster, or any other team’s pu pu platter of secondary pieces.
And as for the worry that the Spurs will just recruit Leonard back during Team USA Minicamp next week, where Gregg Popovich will take the reins of the national team for the first time, it sounds like that scenario, or a training camp recruitment, probably aren’t things the Lakers need to worry about:
Among NBA teams and USA Basketball officials, there is a belief that Leonard wants to participate in the camp - but could be dissuaded based on ancillary concerns.
Leonard holds some enthusiasm for showcasing his revitalized health in the wake of the quad injury that has been at the center of discord between the Spurs and him, sources said. The question being debated, sources said, is whether participating in the Team USA camp will ignite trade talks that deliver him to his preferred destination -- the Los Angeles Lakers -- or give the Spurs more cause to hold onto Leonard and push him to report to training camp in September.
Around Leonard, there have been suggestions that he has no intention of entering the Spurs practice facility again, which rival teams consider an empty threat unless he’s willing to incur a forfeiture of his $20 million salary and fines.
Leonard likely isn’t going to hold out of training camp, but just as it’s unlikely he’d want to deal with how much that would cost him, it’s just as unlikely the Spurs would want to deal with the drama storm that would descend upon their practice facility if Leonard did show up.
This training camp for Team USA was probably their last real gasp, their final opportunity to get Leonard in a room with Popovich and use whatever persuasiveness and/or mind control they’ve used on all their players over the years in order to get him to fall back into line and rejoin their program.
That meeting could still happen, but it also doesn’t sound like Leonard is going to be very amenable to it right now, so as much as he probably wants out of San Antonio and the Lakers would want to get him in house, there is no driving factor to force the Lakers to give up more to do so.
The Lakers have the Spurs cornered at this point, and all the leverage is in Johnson and Pelinka’s court. San Antonio can either lessen their asking price for Leonard and get something back for him, or if things hold steady as they are now, watch him walk to the Lakers anyway.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.