Team USA will hold its minicamp in Las Vegas next week with 35 players listed as invitees to the event. Among that crew is San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, who reportedly demanded a trade from the team earlier this summer and remains in the thick of much of the offseason chatter.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will head up the minicamp in Vegas and, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, Leonard may show up there, too. However, as Wojnarowski reports, Leonard’s decision to go to the minicamp may be more to show the status of his recovery from injury than anything to do with mending fences with the Spurs:
While the prospects for reconciliation with Leonard are low, the Team USA minicamp will provide another opportunity for Popovich to interact with and speak to the player he once hoped would take over for Tim Duncan as the face of the Spurs franchise.
If Popovich cannot persuade Leonard, San Antonio has to make a trade eventually — or risk losing him for nothing in free agency.
Among NBA teams and USA Basketball officials, there is a belief that Leonard wants to participate in the camp, but could be dissuaded based on ancillary concerns.
The sheer volume of players (35) and coaches (nine) in attendance spares Popovich and Leonard the need to interact much — if at all — in these semi-public workout sessions. Nevertheless, there’s still a level of intrigue surrounding Popovich and Leonard in this setting and that could create the kind of media frenzy that Leonard disdains and could seek to avoid
Leonard’s trade demands started with reports of him seeking a move to the Los Angeles Lakers. Other teams have been mentioned in the mix for Leonard — the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and others — and per Wojnarowski and Shelburne, the Spurs want a fairly large return for Leonard in trades.
Trade talks with several teams continue, with traction slowly, surely gathering with offers for a star insisting that he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. If the Spurs are losing deal leverage, they aren’t operating in a manner that suggests they’re peddling a depreciating asset. San Antonio has been determined in demanding a sizable return on Leonard.
Still, the bidding war among Boston, Philadelphia and the Lakers never materialized. The Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Toronto and Washington are among teams who’ve talked with San Antonio, league sources said.
So far, the Sixers have held out three players — Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz — in talks. Boston hasn’t included five players, including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. The Celtics and Sixers have offered pick-heavy packages that haven’t moved the Spurs, league sources said.
ESPN reports that the Spurs are seeking an All-Star-type player, young players with high potential and Draft assets in any trade for Leonard. Wojnarowski and Shelburne also report there has been “less traction” around a possible Spurs-Celtics or Spurs-Sixers deal for Leonard as those teams are well positioned for the future and aren’t looking to take a risk trade-wise.
As for the Lakers, writes Wojnarowski and Shelburne, they are playing the long game in trade talks and are confident that Leonard wants to play there and re-sign as a free agent come 2019 should they land him.
As for the USA minicamp, ESPN reports Leonard holds enthusiasm to showcase his revitalized health at the event. However, ESPN reports that the question being debated is whether Leonard’s participation in the Team USA camp will ignite trade talks anew or give the Spurs more reason to hold on to Leonard and perhaps push him to report to training camp in September.
Leonard has reportedly grown dissatisfied with how the organization handled his quad injury and feels the franchise turned on him once Leonard sought a second opinion. Additionally, per ESPN, the Spurs haven’t allowed prospective trade partners to talk directly to Leonard or his representation.
Leonard played in just nine games for San Antonio in the 2017-18 campaign due to a quad injury he initially suffered in Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals. The two-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year’s absence was especially notable late in the season, when he went to New York to continue rehab and chose not to be with the team during its playoff run. San Antonio was defeated 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs by eventual-champion Golden State Warriors.
The tension surrounding the situation between Leonard and the Spurs intensified when, after opting to not be with the team for rehab reasons, Leonard was spotted three weeks later attending a Dodgers game in Los Angeles.
San Antonio is hoping to regain the usual good footing it holds with its stars in order to keep the standard of excellence they have maintained since drafting Tim Duncan No. 1 overall in 1997. The Spurs had won at least 50 games in every season until 2017-18, when they went 47-35 and finished seventh in the Western Conference.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.