The All-Star forward wants to leave the San Antonio Spurs and remains frustrated with the manner in which the five-time NBA champions have dealt with his injury struggles.
Leonard sought a second medical opinion on a quad injury despite having been cleared to return to the active roster but decided to stay sat out, which led to doubts over the legitimacy of his fitness problems.
And Leonard’s discontent at San Antonio’s treatment of his injury and the unsupportive public reactions from coach Gregg Popovich and guard Tony Parker among other players means he intends to move to Los Angeles.
The Lakers are widely believed to be his first choice destination and ESPN’s Shelburne has said that Leonard plans to tell other teams that he will sign with them as a free agent in 2019.
But according to well-sourced NBA insider Ramona Shelburne, a move to the Clippers cannot be altogether ruled out because of how strong Leonard’s desire is to move back to California.
“I don’t think you can rule out the Clippers at all. Los Angeles has two teams and people forget that,” Shelburne told ESPN’s The Jump.
“The Clippers have two lottery picks and Tobias Harris. That’s not the same package the Lakers can offer but Jerry West has pulled some rabbits out of a hat before.
“This would change after the draft jf he’s not dealt before that. [Picks] 12 and 13 become players. Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger are the guys pulling the strings there, they’ve got to get aggressive.
“[Picks] 12 and 13 can turn into a top-five pick if you play your cards right too and get aggressive. If you’re the Clippers and you’re trying to build a new stadium down there, they didn’t want to go straight into the lottery after Chris Paul left.
“They wanted to straddle that line where they could still contend and win so they’re a real wildcard for me.
“I know Kawhi wants to be in Los Angeles with a preference for the Lakers but he wants to be in Los Angeles. I have a sense that they can feel confident that if they traded for him, he would re-sign.”
Asked whether Spurs would rue their poor management of Leonard, Shelburne added: “I think they will regret it. This is one thing we talked about, ‘Do they want to help the Lakers? Not help the Lakers? Etcetera.’
“Gregg Popovich may not be there much longer and whatever you do with Kawhi Leonard is part of your legacy. Whatever they decide, whether they keep him or trade him, that becomes part of Pop’s legacy.
“It becomes part of R.C. Buford’s legacy and part of the Spurs’ legacy.
“I think you have to think about what that means for the franchise going forward. You want to leave the franchise in good hands and set up to win.”
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