Reports: Gregg Popovich meets with Kawhi Leonard
From NBA Twitter and media reports
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich met with Kawhi Leonard in San Diego on Tuesday in the hopes of repairing the franchise’s fractured relationship with their disgruntled star, Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania reports.
Turner Sports’ David Aldridge also confirmed the report via Twitter:
Source confirms reports that Gregg Popovich met in San Diego tonight with Kawhi Leonard. First direct communication between the two since Leonard’s trade demand Friday.
The meeting between the two faces of the Spurs’ franchise was done professionally and confidentially, league sources said.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne have more on the meeting between Popovich and Leonard as well:
For weeks, Popovich has been working to set up a meeting with Leonard to discuss the issues that have fractured the franchise’s relationship with the All-NBA forward and caused him to make public in the media his desire to be traded, league sources said.
Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intention is to sign in Los Angeles when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said.
The Spurs are unlikely to be motivated to facilitate a deal to the Lakers, league sources said.
Leonard had told confidants that he did not want to sit down with Popovich and has been purposely difficult for the Spurs to reach recently. Among the issues, Leonard is angry over what he believes was the Spurs’ mishandling of his quad injury, and he remains irate with public comments from teammate Tony Parker and Popovich that he felt were not supportive of him, league sources said.
Leonard played just nine games in a bizarre season in which he fell out with the Spurs. Despite being cleared to return by the Spurs — notoriously cautious with injuries — Leonard continued to rehab and seek outside opinions.
The saga reached its apex last week as multiple outlets reported that Leonard had indicated to the Spurs that he prefers to be traded rather than continue playing for the team that traded for him during the 2011 Draft and hoped to build around him in the wake of Tim Duncan’s retirement in 2016.
Leonard, a two-time All-Star and two-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 16.2 points in those nine appearances as the Spurs failed to win 50 or more games for the first time since the abbreviated 1998-99 season. It was a disappointing follow-up to his career season in 2016-17, in which he averaged 25.5 points to establish himself as arguably the best two-way player in the NBA.
Leonard is under contract for two more seasons but can exercise a player option to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.