SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made the trip to San Diego on Tuesday to meet with star forward Kawhi Leonard ahead of Thursday’s NBA draft, according to multiple reports.
The two had a “good” conversation and “more dialogue” is expected, Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News reports.
Leonard did not want the meeting and has been making himself difficult to reach for the Spurs on purpose, according to an ESPN report.
Multiple outlets reported last week that Leonard wants out of San Antonio and is determined to play elsewhere. According to ESPN, Leonard is upset with the Spurs’ handling of his quad injury and the lack of support he received from the team — namely Tony Parker and Popovich — while he was sidelined last season.
Leonard was reportedly supposed to meet with Popovich last week to resolve the tension, but it never happened. ESPN reports Popovich has tried to set up a meeting for weeks.
Leonard has his eye on playing in Los Angeles, preferably for the Lakers, according to ESPN. Leonard will reportedly alert teams interested in trading for him that his preference is to sign with the Lakers when he’s eligible to become a free agent in 2019.
The Spurs aren’t motivated to deal Leonard to the Lakers, according to ESPN, and have been reluctant to provide guidance to rival teams when it comes to potential packages for a possible Leonard deal.
Leonard, who turns 27 later this month, has been the subject of trade speculation for months after last season produced extensive tension between him and the team over the handling of his quadriceps tendinopathy, which limited him to just nine games, during which he averaged 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.
Various reports over the last few months indicated the sides disagreed about the nature of Leonard’s injury, how to treat it and how soon he would be able to return to the floor. An ESPN report in May said the Spurs were worried Leonard’s group — led by uncle Dennis Robertson and agent Mitch Frankel — intentionally sought to sabotage the team’s relationship with Leonard in hopes of getting him traded to a larger market.
Leonard, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, has played all seven of his NBA seasons with the Spurs. He is eligible to sign a five-year, $219 million supermax extension with San Antonio this summer.