ESPN NBA analyst and former player Jalen Rose said on First Take that Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio, citing the team's inability to pair superstar players next to him as one of the reasons he reportedly wants to depart the team:
Rose's remarks come a day after a report from Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright of ESPN described Leonard's current relationship with the organization as "distant" and "disconnected."
Per that article, "Months of discord centering on elements of treatment, rehabilitation and timetables for return from a right quadriceps injury" have contributed to Leonard's reportedly strained relationship with the organization.
General manager RC Buford denied that a rift has formed, however.
"There is no issue between the Spurs organization and Kawhi," he told Wojnarowski and Wright. "From Day 1 all parties have worked together to find the best solutions to his injury."
He added: "This has been difficult for everyone. It's been difficult for Kawhi. He's an elite-level player. It's been difficult for the team, because they want to play with a great teammate. And it's been difficult for our staff. Historically we've been able to successfully manage injuries. This rehab hasn't been simple, and it hasn't gone in a linear fashion."
Leonard's uncle, Dennis Robertson, also disputed ESPN's initial report.
"There is nothing true to that story," he told Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News. "Kawhi's camp and the Spurs are how they've always been—doing the right thing for the team and the right thing for Kawhi."
If Leonard wanted out and was traded, it certainly would come as a shock, as Jason Concepcion of The Ringer and Matt Moore of The Action Network noted:
Leonard, 26, has appeared in just nine games this season, averaging 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in those contests. It's a far cry from the 25.5 points and 5.8 rebounds he posted in 74 regular-season games last year.
In recent years, Leonard has emerged as arguably the game's top two-way player. He's a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and finished second in the MVP voting in the 2015-16 season and third in the voting last year. His evolution as a scorer and perimeter shooter—he shot 38 percent from three last season—have made him one of the elite players in the NBA.
For that reason, it's hard to imagine the Spurs letting him go. But Leonard also has player option for the 2019-20 season, and if he indeed wants out, the Spurs could have to make a tough choice in the next year: Keep him and hope he changes his mind and signs a long-term deal, or trade him to avoid the possibility of losing him for nothing in free agency.