Kawhi Leonard wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
And in a totally unrelated note, I would love for Netflix to move up the release dates for “Orange is the New Black” and “Ozark.”
We don’t always get what we want.
In Leonard’s case, he’s asking a team that he disrespected to send him to the perfect destination.
San Antonio shouldn’t listen. There won’t be a go-west-young-man scenario here.
Send him east. Northeast, to be exact.
Before we get to the heavy lifting, have you ever witnessed a more blatant disregard for loyalty than Leonard has shown over the last eight months to the San Antonio Spurs, the team and head coach that turned him from an unwilling franchise player to the best two-way player in the league not named LeBron James?
He has the nerve to be mad because of perceived mishandling of the most talked about quadriceps injury in NBA history and wants to take his talents to Cali. Meanwhile, the Spurs paid Leonard $18 million for the nine games he played — that’s a cool $2 million per game if you’re scoring at home — and are now faced with the choice of trading him or watching him walk after he finishes out his contract in 2019. To walk way would mean also saying no to a $219 million super maximum contract extension to stay in the Alamo City.
Here’s what doesn’t make much sense. Leonard’s camp has it in its head that there’s a great chance the Spurs will trade him to another organization in the Western Conference — presumably the Lakers, who are being pressured to make this deal happen to make the Lake Show more attractive when James makes the decision on his free agency on Friday.
Why would the Spurs make such a trade? Do you think coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford want any part of the Ka-Bron Lakers giving them the business three times a season and moving up in the Western Conference pecking order behind the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets assuming Chris Paul stays put in Houston?
You read here before the 2018 season that longtime buddies LeBron and CP3 would opt out of their final seasons with Cleveland and Houston, respectively, and join up in Los Angeles where both have business interests and mansions.
That opinion has changed with Houston coming within one healthy Paul hamstring away from toppling Golden State in the Western Conference Finals.
Mind you, this is about improving the franchise and the Spurs are reloading, not rebuilding. To send Leonard to Los Angeles sounds a lot like the latter.
An ESPN report said the Lakers are willing to send guard Brandon Ingram and a future No. 1 pick for Leonard, but the Spurs want more, presumably Ingram, high-flying forward Kyle Kuzma and more picks. I don’t see them being interested in point guard Lonzo Ball because of the paternal baggage that comes with Ball’s athleticism.
So where does Leonard go? The guess here is his days in San Antonio are over, despite having a sit-down with Popovich earlier this month. From the San Antonio perspective, there is obviously a need to get younger in the loaded West with eventual Hall of Famers Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol nearing the end of their careers.
LaMarcus Aldridge, the best Spur not named Kawhi, experienced a revival in 2018 with perhaps his best season ever, averaging 23.1 points and 8.5 rebounds, but he turns 33 next month and can’t do it alone. The greatest Spurs teams had the Big Three of Tim Duncan, Ginobili and Parker sharing the burden at money time and today’s league has taught us that one all-star does not a championship team make.
Boston makes the most sense, though it’s no secret that Leonard desires a return to his native California. The Celtics have a wealth of draft picks and plenty of young talent in point guard Kyrie Iriving, forward Jayson Tatum, point guard Jalylen Brown and swingman Gordon Hayward.
Celtics president Danny Ainge won’t part with Irving, but Leonard is that unique talent capable of controlling the game on both ends of the court. Buford should go after Brown, Hayward and Boston’s 2019 protected first-rounder it received in a trade with Sacramento. If the numbers add up, they could package Leonard, point guard Dejounte Murray and another player in the deal if — and this a huge if — Leonard could be convinced to play with Boston beyond 2019.
All things considered, the Spurs are sitting at a poker table with several teams holding bigger chip stacks, but Buford and Popovich are about as smart as they come in this type of game.
Unlike Leonard, they won’t misplay their hand.