Kawhi Leonard trade rumors: Spurs GM says team's first option is keeping their star 'for a long time'

In a year filled with strange twists and turns in the NBA, perhaps nothing was more intriguing than the Kawhi Leonard saga. The superstar forward played just nine games for the San Antonio Spurs while dealing with a mysterious quad injury. There were disputes about the actual injury, about whether he was cleared to play and complaints from his teammates. 

Now, Leonard reportedly wants out. Reports broke last week that Leonard wants to be traded from the Spurs, and his first choice is the Lakers. There have been all sorts of rumors since the initial news, and even a meeting between Leonard and head coach Gregg Popovich. At this point, nothing has been resolved, though it definitely appears Leonard is still frustrated. 

But the Spurs are not giving up hope that they can convince the two-time Defensive Player of the Year to stay. Following the 2018 NBA Draft, Spurs GM R.C. Buford told reports that the Spurs' first option is still to keep Leonard. Via ESPN:

"Kawhi and his family mean a lot to our organization and to the community," Buford said after the NBA Draft. "While none of us would wish we are where we are, we're going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him, and we'll explore all of our options. But the first one would be to do what we can to keep Kawhi as a part of our group."

Asked when he'd like to see a resolution between Leonard and the franchise, Buford quipped, "Yesterday." He refuted the notion, however, that time might be working against the Spurs.

"I don't know that timing's a factor in this. ... He's under contract for another year," Buford said. "Our goal is to keep him as a part of our program for a long time."

Well, obviously. A team is never going to just give up on one of the best players to ever put on their jersey, even if the relationship between them has frayed. And the Spurs do have a few things working in their favor. For one, they're the Spurs, one of the best organizations in all sports, and two, they're the only team with the ability to offer Leonard a massive five-year, $219 million supermax extension. 

It remains to be seen if that will be enough to convince Leonard to stay, or if they'll have to relent and make a deal to avoid losing him for nothing in free agency next summer. Given the Spurs' continued hopes to salvage things, we might not see a resolution to Leonard's reported trade request any time soon. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories