Kawhi Leonard Rumors: Gregg Popovich Met with Disgruntled Star

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2018

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) talks with head coach Gregg Popovich during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Saturday, March 12, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 93-85. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Darren Abate/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and disgruntled small forward Kawhi Leonard reportedly met in San Diego on Tuesday, according to Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania.

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News was told the two had a "good" conversation and that "more dialogue" is expected.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne first reported the two planned to meet in advance of Thursday's NBA draft.

On June 15, ESPN.com's Chris Haynes reported Leonard wanted to be traded from the Spurs as he prepares to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

Citing sources, Haynes reported Leonard—who appeared in nine games last season—had "grown frustrated with how the organization handled his quad injury and feels the franchise turned on him once he sought a second opinion."

Additionally, Wojnarowski and Shelburne noted Leonard "remains irate with public comments out of teammate Tony Parker and Popovich that he felt were not supportive of him."

"I've been through it," Parker said of the quad injury he suffered in May 2017, per the San Antonio Express-News' Tom Orsborn. "It was a rehab for me for eight months. Same kind of injury (as Kawhi), but mine was a hundred times worse. But the same kind of injury. You just stay positive."

"I could have gone anywhere, but I trust my Spurs doctors," he added. "They have been with me my whole career. They know my body better than anybody…I feel like we have the best medical team in the world."

According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, Leonard and his camp have circled Los Angeles, and ideally the Lakers, as his top trade destination:

"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."

The Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers have also been mentioned as possible suitors for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

For the time being, though, Leonard doesn't have much leverage. The 26-year-old is still under contract with the Spurs through the remainder of the 2018-19 season, and—like Paul George a year ago with the Indiana Pacers—won't be able to dictate where he's dealt.

That said, teams that aren't near the top of Leonard's wishlist could be hesitant to part with significant assets to acquire him if he's not fully committed to signing a long-term deal.

If Popovich is able to convince Leonard to stay in San Antonio, he will remain eligible for a five-year, $219 million supermax extension. However, Haynes reported Leonard's relationship with the Spurs is so fractured that he "isn't concerned about missing out on the supermax."

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