Kawhi Leonard rumors: Rival executives expect Lakers to make push for Spurs star

The Lakers want to sign two superstars over the next two summers of free agency. This isn't a secret or something that was leaked out by sources. Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles front office have been adamant about this goal since Magic took over. Many of their moves since then reflect these plans.

The D'Angelo Russell trade last summer was a clear move to create cap room. Taking on Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline in exchange for Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson cleared up even more space. This is a team that's going star hunting by any means necessary. One name that's come up a lot is LeBron James, but a new one has entered the realm of possibility the last few months: Spurs star Kawhi Leonard.

The Spurs and Leonard have been in one of the most bizarre feuds of the season over his injury status. Leonard has reportedly been medically cleared to return to the Spurs, but he apparently doesn't feel comfortable playing right now with a nagging quad injury. Leonard briefly returned to the team, only to leave once again and head to New York for rehab. He is reportedly expected to miss the entire postseason. 

This leaves the Spurs in the awkward position of having an unhappy superstar, that's been hurt, and is due for a super max contract in the near future. Nobody is certain if Leonard wants to stay or not, but teams are definitely going to be calling the Spurs about the possibility of trading for him. That's where the Lakers come in.

Los Angeles has a young core in Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram, all of which could be potential trade targets this summer for a team like San Antonio. Any time a team trades a superstar, they want to get young pieces back to build with again. This makes the Lakers appealing, and it's a large part of why many rival executives told Sporting News they believe that Los Angeles is a potential Leonard destination. 

"I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio," one executive told Sporting News. "[Leonard] wants to go to L.A. There probably won't be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent [in 2019]. He's an L.A. guy and he can just let teams know he won't re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers."

This is pretty typical of the Lakers mystique: A potential star free agent is available and the Lakers have a chance at him, so they're going to want to sign there. That said, Leonard did grow up in Southern California and attended San Diego State in college, so the California connection could be real. One thing that's certain is that the Lakers are going to give the Spurs a call. That's what any good organization would do.

"I would say that's the most likely thing," another general manager told Sporting News. "He's going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There's not many other ways to explain what's been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio." 

It's crazy that this is a legitimate possibility, but it just shows how far the Leonard-Spurs relationship has deteriorated this season. Maybe he gets a super max contract during the summer and everything is fixed from there, but right now nobody knows where Leonard is going to be in the long-term. Nobody would have expected that towards the end of last season.

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