Report: Gregg Popovich meets with Kawhi Leonard
NBA.com Global on Jun 20, 2018 03:36 PM
FILE - HOUSTON, TX - MAY 7: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs stands for a moment of silence for the National Anthem before the game against the Houston Rockets during Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2017 Playoffs on May 7, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich met with Kawhi Leonard in San Diego on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in the hopes of repairing the franchise's fractured relationship with their disgruntled star, Yahoo! Sports reported.
NBA.com's David Aldridge confirmed the report.
Source confirms reports that Gregg Popovich met in San Diego tonight with Kawhi Leonard. First direct communication between the two since Leonard’s trade demand Friday.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) June 20, 2018
ESPN initially reported that Popovich was flying to California to meet with Leonard before Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) Draft before amending its report to indicate the meeting had taken place on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time).
Leonard played just nine games in a bizarre season in which he fell out with the Spurs. Despite being cleared to return by the Spurs -- notoriously cautious with injuries -- Leonard continued to rehab and seek outside opinions.
The saga reached its apex last week as multiple outlets reported that Leonard had indicated to the Spurs that he prefers to be traded rather than continue playing for the team that traded for him during the 2011 draft and hoped to build around him in the wake of Tim Duncan's retirement in 2016.
Leonard is reportedly angry with the Spurs for mishandling the injury. In particular, ESPN reported that Leonard is "irate" over public comments from Popovich and teammate Tony Parker as his absence wore on.
Leonard, a two-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 16.2 points in those nine appearances as the Spurs failed to win 50 or more games for the first time since the abbreviated 1998-99 season. It was a disappointing follow-up to his career season in 2016-17, in which he averaged 25.5 points to establish himself as arguably the best two-way player in the NBA.
Leonard is under contract for two more seasons but can exercise a player option to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. According to ESPN, Leonard will let teams interested in trading for him that he intends to play in Los Angeles, preferably for the Lakers, when he becomes a free agent.