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What to Do About the Possible Kawhi Leonard Situation

Let’s see…star player wants out of current team before he hits the market, and has demanded a trade to only one team and will make life miserable on the current team if they do not adhere to his request.

Must be the NBA.

And of course the big news is that Kawhi Leonard, after the past season being injured and in a bit of of a public relations, he-said he said battle with the San Antonio Spurs wants out and has pretty much said he wants to go to the Spurs rival Los Angeles Lakers.

Now of course this has not been the first time this has happened before.  7 years ago we saw Carmelo Anthony do the same thing, hijack the Denver Nuggets into trading him to the New York Knicks as he said he would leave Denver for New York regardless when he became a free agent.

Then we similar situations and scenarios play out as Deron Williams, who was a budding  point guard for the Jazz, pulled a similar situation wanting to leave Utah for New Jersey/Brooklyn.  Then Dwight Howard.

Admittedly, this time period for me, I had lost pretty much all interest in the NBA as it had felt like the League had a bunch of whiny crybabies for superstars.  After a few years, the players (stars mostly) demands subsided and things were a little better.

Now many view how LeBron James leaving Cleveland for Miami kickstarted it and that Kevin Durant to Golden State are in the same boat and I have to disagree on that.  If you looked at the jumps the King and KD made, they were to win championships (of course, both were/are the NBA superstars and regardless of where they went they would remain that way) as opposed to Anthony, Williams, and Howard, who all sought to be superstars and faces of the game.  And if you look at their careers now, going to those teams did not help them one bit.  Anthony has been somewhat maligned of being a me-first, team-second player with the Knicks and it sounds like it was that way in Oklahoma City.  Williams never got any better from Utah to the Nets and is now on the decline as we often forget about him these days.  And Howard’s time with the Lakers has been forgettable and has been on 3 teams after that point (Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte) with mixed results.

But are we getting to that point again where the new era of stars want to dictate where they go?  Rumors abound that Leonard wants to be traded to the Lakers and that regardless of any situation, he will sign with them once he becomes a free agent in 2020, thus eliminating other teams who want to make a trade for him as the Spurs would not get as much value in return.  We are already hearing Kyrie isn’t going to re-sign in Boston once he becomes a free agent and rumblings of him wanting to join the Knicks is beginning (though it isn’t as heavy as the Leonard-to-Lakers rumors).

Kawhi

The problem with the NBA isn’t the fact of there is a lack of parity.  Honestly it has been like that for 30 years.  But these superstars are wanting everything handed to them and that means if they don’t like what their team is doing they are wanting out and wanting to go where they can make a bigger name for themselves or believe they can go to a team that will “treat them right.”  Some view Leonard’s injury was more of a ruse just to keep him healthy for a larger payday down the road and he could have played if he wanted to as the Spurs medical heads have hinted.  Others have said Leonard doesn’t see the same Spurs team that has won 5 world championships over the past 20 years and that San Antonio is on the downfall.

So from an outsider’s perspective (and I’m definitely an outsider on it), the damage between the Spurs and Leonard is probably permanent.  Leonard staying on San Antonio is a poison I believe, which is stunning given how the Spurs have been a model NBA franchise for, well almost 30 years dating back to when they drafted David Robinson.  So yes, the Spurs need to trade Leonard at this point.

But issues lie.  IF what Leonard, a Los Angeles native, is saying is true that he will sign with the Lakers once he becomes a free agent, it will scare off teams in a big way.  Teams that could probably figure Leonard is that missing piece of a championship (Boston, Toronto, etc.) will shy away knowing they would give up a ransom to San Antonio only to have a two-year rental (maybe shorter) player in Leonard?  Fans may go “oh well, it won’t matter if we can win a championship in that time period” but it isn’t a lock, especially if Golden State continues their torrid run for that same time period.  You don’t get it and the team is pretty much depleted and have to start over.

Another thing that people forget is that when we saw the likes of Anthony, Howard, and Williams, they all had this belief, this entitlement to them that the minute they set foot in their new locker room it was “their team” and everybody would just move out of the way.  And of course, it never panned out for those three, and their teams for different reasons.  And to be honest, if you really think about it, the Knicks, Lakers, and Nets have never been the same since those trades.  So if you are the Lakers, do you even consider making a trade knowing that you would have to give up some young talent? Adding on, the rumors of LeBron and Paul George heading to wear the purple & gold would probably eliminate a chance of Leonard even getting there.

But still, Leonard could still try to orchestrate a way to get himself with the Lakers, via trade or free agency while San Antonio is hamstrung by his demand.

So what can the Spurs, or what could the NBA do to stop another wave of players orchestrating wanting to play for different teams like a bunch of schoolyard kids or kids on AAU teams who don’t get their way jump to another AAU team?

For the Spurs

TRADE LEONARD TO A TEAM NEAR THE BOTTOM OF THE LEAGUE:  Nothing like sending a message saying you will not get what you want.  If we have to trade you to Orlando, Atlanta, or New York and we just get a few pieces back, we can.  We will NOT send you to wherever you tell people that you want to go.

KEEP HIM ON THE ROSTER BUT NOT PLAY HIM:  Some have mentioned this already, but he is going to just waste a spot and perhaps the Spurs would be doing him a favor.  Don’t think San Antonio is that kind of team who would do that anyway.

CRAZY ONE-FIND A WAY TO SIGN LEBRON JAMES AND THEN TRADE LEONARD TO THE CLIPPERS FOR A DRAFT PICK:  Again, San Antonio isn’t that kind of team, but could you imagine if the Spurs were to sign LeBron James (who holds high regards for Gregg Popovich and some have said the Spurs could be a sleeper in the LeBron sweepstakes)?  I could see it where San Antonio calls Leonard and says “yeah, we signed LeBron, Paul George, and Chris Paul” and then Leonard whistles a new tune on the Spurs wanting to stay and be “all in” and then San Antonio responds by saying “oh yeah, in order to sign all three, we traded you to the Clippers.  Thanks for your time!”

Yes, I can be mean and cruel in my thinking.  My apologies.

For the NBA

THE TEAM SIGNING THE STAR WOULD LOSE THEIR FIRST ROUND PICK TO THE FREE AGENT’S PREVIOUS TEAM:  Similar to what we see out of Major League Baseball if a team loses a key free agent to another team they get that team’s first round pick.  It will make certain teams re-think the idea of signing a star, especially a team who was down in the dumps for a season.  Of course, there may be a string attached saying that a team with a top 3 lottery pick would not lose their pick if they sign a top tier free agent.  This is something I’m surprised the NBA hasn’t thought of yet.  Of course, they would have to label certain free agents as “Tier A” free agents for that to happen.

TEAMS WHO WOULD MAKE A TRADE WITH ANOTHER TEAM FOR THAT STAR INSTEAD OF LETTING THEM “WALK” TO THEIR NEW TEAM WOULD STILL BE COMPENSATED FOR A FIRST ROUND PICK:  Meaning, let’s say the Spurs trade Leonard to the Hawks.  Leonard walks and goes to the Lakers as a free agent, San Antonio would still get the Lakers pick.  It would also force a sign-and-trade move between the Lakers and Atlanta as well to avoid San Antonio getting LA’s pick (and probably Atlanta’s pick if a move like that were to be made).

WIDEN THE GAP FOR PLAYERS TO MAKE FAR MORE MONEY ON THEIR CURRENT TEAM THAN THEIR NEXT/FUTURE TEAM:  Sounds a bit childish and I know there is already that in place, but not wide enough.  These players entering in their primes want to get paid in a very big way and not everybody is like LeBron or Kevin Durant where they are the NBA’s top dogs and are consumed with just winning.  It will make players re-think “should I stay and have everything in my future paid for now?” or “should I go and either have a better shot at winning the championship than I do now, or should I go to a larger outlet than I am in now, and have far more opportunities of making more money off the court?”

Of course what the NBA could do they really cannot do until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement happens and that may not work with the players.  But something has to be done as it is not good for anybody involved.  Not good for the fans, not good for the teams, and not good for the players.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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