Lakers Trade Rumors: Kawhi Leonard Prefers Clippers to Joining LeBron James

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJuly 5, 2018

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2018, file photo, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves the ball up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, in San Antonio. The absolute unwillingness to answer certain questions is part of the San Antonio Spurs' mystique. The Spurs just don't share much. So there is some unmistakable irony here that when it comes to the obviously fractured relationship between San Antonio and Kawhi Leonard, it's the Spurs who are the ones frustrated by the lack of answers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Kawhi Leonard has reportedly cooled on the idea of joining the Los Angeles Lakers

Appearing on the Back to Back podcast on the Count The Dings Network on Thursday, ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright indicated Leonard is now focusing on trying to land with the Los Angeles Clippers in the aftermath of LeBron James' commitment to the Lakers. 

"The Lakers are not Kawhi's preferred destination anymore," Wright said. "He wants to go to the Clippers. Because he doesn't want to go and be second fiddle to LeBron. That's what I was told. I was told by somebody that would know. So right now the Clippers are where he wants to go. 

"But I'm also told—I talked to people within the Spurs organization—and they're like, 'Yeah he wants to go to the Clippers, but their assets are s--t at this point.'" 

Wright's comments echo those made by Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania on The Herd with Colin Cowherd (h/t NBCSports.com's Dan Feldman): 

"One thing that's been made abundantly clear. I'm going to stress this. There's no guarantee if Kawhi Leonard hits the market next summer that he's going to sign with the Lakers, period. I think his options have broadened a little bit, just inside L.A. There's another team, obviously, in L.A. I think he'd be very much open to the Clippers.

... Around Kawhi, what's been made abundantly clear is there's not an interest to go join a super team. I don't think he's jumping for joy that LeBron James is in L.A. with the Lakers. If anything, that's going to make him look maybe more toward the Clippers. Because this is a guy that won Finals MVP against LeBron James. You think he's amped up and wants to join LeBron now? I think that's been overstated, and the Spurs are beginning to realize that and beginning to realize that we might have a broadened market for him."

However, it's worth noting ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski said on The Woj Pod (h/t LakersNation.com) that James' commitment to the Lakers made the Clippers less appealing to Leonard:

"I've been told that one of the reasons why he looks at going to the Clippers or is a little less motivated is I think initially the idea of L.A. was fine to him. He preferred the Lakers but was open to the Clippers. But now that LeBron is in L.A., I think the idea of going head-to-head with LeBron, to have (Kawhi) with the Clippers, him with the Lakers, and to maybe feel dwarfed by that, I'm told that's become far less appealing to him."

At this point, though, Leonard doesn't control his fate. He's still under contract for one more season with the Spurs, and he only has so much leverage as San Antonio continues to scan the market for a palatable deal. 

But with the Spurs' asking price reportedly sky-high—especially as it relates to the Lakers, according to Spectrum SportsNet's Larry Coon—it seems like the melodrama could drag on through the summer. 

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