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, a two-time first-team All-NBA player, can become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. He is eligible to sign a five-year, $219 million super maximum contract with the Spurs this summer.
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.
The Spurs’ official priority has been to try to talk with Leonard to work through the issues, league sources said. That has been communicated to those teams seeking trade talks, although the Spurs have encouraged some rival team executives calling about Leonard to present an offer if they so choose, league sources said.
So far, the Spurs have been largely reluctant to give teams guidance on the players, or packages, that would interest them in trades, sources said.