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With the struggling San Antonio Spurs (now, there’s a sentence that has not been written much) in town Sunday, the elephant in the arena is not the Spurs’ 3-7 record in their last 10 games as they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers (35-23).
In the NBA, it’s always about superstars, which brings us to San Antonio’s best player, Kawhi Leonard.
The first-team All-NBA forward first injured his right quadriceps in an intrasquad scrimmage on Nov. 30. Since then, he’s played but nine games this season for the Spurs (35-25), who will lug a four-game skid into Sunday’s game at Quicken Loans Arena.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Leonard has been medically cleared to play. However, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he “would be surprised” if the 26-year-old returns this season.
Here is the Popovich comments on Kawhi. Not ready to say he’s out for the season…just would be surprised. So, there’s that … pic.twitter.com/C22ntHgbOY
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) February 21, 2018
Which, of course, lit the fuse for rumors of the Spurs potentially looking to move their superstar.
As is seemingly always the case when a superstar player and a team are having issues, if the Spurs decide to move Leonard, look for the Cavaliers to jump into the fray (harken back to all the rumors involving at-odds-with-their-teams guys such as Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony just last summer).
With the much-discussed Brooklyn pick — which is becoming more and more valuable as the Nets, 19-41 and losers of eight consecutive games, continue to take on water on a daily basis — as the centerpiece, should San Antonio decide the time for change has finally come, Cleveland could probably put together the framework of a deal that might entire the Spurs to move Leonard.
Should Cleveland be able to pull it off and pair Leonard with LeBron James, should he opt to remain in Cleveland, the landscape of the NBA would be altered.
Leonard is signed for $20 through the 2018-29 season, with a $20.3 million player option for 2019-20.
Marc Stein of the New York Times believes Leonard being on the block is a possibility.
“Is this all building toward a showdown that winds up getting Leonard — who so many of us thought was the perfect Spur and a future MVP — traded in the off-season? These are the sorts of questions people around the league are asking about San Antonio, which hasn’t endured drama on this level since the early days of (Tim) Duncan’s career.”
While appearing on a podcast in January, Jared Zwerling said Leonard’s business manager Dennis Robertson “had a great conversation” the San Antonio General Manager R.C. Buford. Zwerling said Robertson said “there is no issue” between Leonard, who is also his nephew in addition to being his client, and the Spurs.
NBA insider Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated reported the Leonard situation has proven to be more than a bit flummoxing, even for a rock-solid organization such as the Spurs.
“Communication between the Spurs and their MVP candidate hasn’t been great, and even Popovich doesn’t seem to have many answers for what’s gone wrong or what comes next … A source from another team told me recently that the distance between Leonard and the Spurs is real, but the Spurs aren’t panicking. They’ll wait until he comes back before making any franchise-altering decisions, even if that means waiting until next September.”
All of which brings us to the conclusion formed by Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.
“San Antonio could lose one of the NBA’s best players for nothing. The other option is they could trade him. Even with just one year remaining on his deal, even with the injury issues he’s had this season, there would be teams lining up to take a risk on Leonard — and willing to part with significant assets to do so. Players like him don’t come along every day.”