There might be a chance that neither the Los Angeles Lakers nor Los Angeles Clippers fully commit themselves to the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes.
Granted, it’s a slim chance. Hollywood in general is considered his preferred landing spot. But the possibility exists that neither team will throw everything they have, plus the kitchen sink, at the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and 2014 Finals MVP. They’re apparently that concerned with his quad injury, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Tania Ganguli:
Neither the Lakers nor Clippers have had trade discussions with the Spurs, as both teams have concerns about the severity of Leonard’s injury. He spent several months away from the team while rehabbing, which led to public barbs from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich about Leonard’s absence — an unusual move for the Spurs.
While the Lakers are open to trading any player on their roster, how much they are willing to give up depends on their confidence in his health.
It’s also unclear if the Spurs would be willing to trade Leonard to the Lakers or any other team.
Look, if push comes to shove, the Clippers and Lakers will mortgage most of the farm for Leonard. He’s a top-five player when healthy. But his injury is an underrated, oft-overlooked part of this whole storyline.
Leonard appeared in just nine games last season. That’s a pretty big red flag, especially for someone who will enter free agency in 2019 (player option). He basically lost an entire year of his prime to this quad setback. Injuries don’t get much more serious, and things could be even worse if this is a degenerative issue.
Hence why it was always a tad ambitious to assume the San Antonio Spurs would just sign Leonard to a super-max extension, worth roughly $219.2 million. And hence why it makes sense that teams like the Clippers and Lakers would exercise some semblance of caution before cannonballing into this process