Spurs Forward Kawhi Leonard Likely Not Returning To San Antonio

Kawhi Leonard is all but gone, Jeff Zilligitt says, and the Spurs don't have any leverage in trade negotiations

Reiter Than You
October 30, 2018 - 11:30 am

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It is unknown where Kawhi Leonard will play next season, but it is becoming increasingly less likely that it will be San Antonio.

“Is it possible? Is it 10 to 15 percent? I guess so,” USA Today NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt said on Reiter Than You. “I have a hard time envisioning that given every day the stories that trickle out, the discord between the two sides. I really don’t know who’s to blame fully or if both sides are to blame. I don’t know if you’re going to be able to blame one side any more than the other when it all comes to it. I know that once there’s some resolution with Kawhi being on another team, I think the stories are going to come out and then everyone’s going to be able to decide a little bit more of who they think is at fault for this situation. 

“But talking to people who have talked to the Spurs, the Spurs do feel that their hands are tied in terms of making a deal, that they don’t feel like they could salvage the relationship,” Zillgitt continued. “Now they’re put in a position that’s not often a position for the Spurs; it’s one where they don’t have all the leverage – or as much as they would like. They’re trying to figure out how to find the best deal, and on the flip side, teams who might be interested in Kawhi know that they don’t have to put their best offer on the table right now. Other teams out there are not going to do that because there’s no guarantee Kawhi is going to stay.”

While the Oklahoma City Thunder gambled on Paul George – and were rewarded – there’s no guarantee the result would be the same for another franchise with Leonard.

“Everyone’s going to point to Paul George and say, ‘Oklahoma City made that deal with everyone thinking he was going to go to L.A,’” Zillgitt said. “But this Kawhi one seems to be a little bit different than Paul George. So there are even fewer teams that want to take that risk and give up so much – including draft picks, assets, young players – for Kawhi with a feel that he’s going to go to Los Angeles anyway.”

If not this season, then potentially the next.

“I don’t want to call next season a lost year for the Lakers, but . . . that’s what I think these deals are all about: a bridge (to the 2019-20 season),” Zillgitt said. “(When LeBorn returned to Cleveland), LeBron didn’t feel like he wanted to babysit. He’s going to have to do that a little bit again next year, and I think bringing in some of those veteran names is going to try to ease that for him.”

Names like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson.

“A lot of these are one-year deals, so there’s no long-term commitment here,” Zillgitt said. “If things don’t work out with certain guys, they can trade at the trade deadline or the contracts, the salaries expire, and then they have money next season to go out and get another player at a max deal. And let’s just not hide from the elephant in the room: that could be Kawhi Leonard.”