Lawrence: One Of Worst Days In Spurs History

When a 27-year-old NBA Finals MVP tells you he doesn't want to play for you, that's a bad day, Mitch Lawrence says

July 19, 2018 - 9:15 am

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At the end of the 2018-19 NBA season, Kawhi Leonard can do one of two things: He can sign a five-year $190 million deal with the Raptors, or he can sign a four-year $141-million deal somewhere else (read: the Lakers).

What will he do?

“I think he’s headed to the Lakers,” NBA Radio host and Sporting News NBA writer Mitch Lawrence said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I really do. There’s a lot of buzz about how he doesn’t want to be the No. 2 guy and obviously if he goes to the Lakers, guess what? He’s the No. 2 guy. But everything you hear is he wants nothing to do with Toronto. He wants to go back home and be a Laker – and unlike Paul George, you really tend to believe this one. We’ll see. That’s a lot of money to turn down, but he just doesn’t seem like he wants to be in Toronto at all.”

Gregg Popovich took the high road after the trade, praising Leonard’s work ethic and contributions to the franchise. 

“There’s no reason now to start blasting away,” Lawrence said, “but you may see stories that come out about all the stuff that they had to put up with this year with Kawhi. I’m stunned that Toronto makes a trade for Kawhi Leonard. Have they had their doctors look at Kawhi Leonard’s leg? Do they know anything about it? Have they talked to Kawhi’s people about maybe staying there long-term? How do you make a trade for Kawhi Leonard without having your doctors take a look at him and find out where he is in terms of his recovery? How do you make this type of deal if you don’t know about those two huge factors and his ability to play?”

DeRozan, the ninth overall pick in 2009, spent the first nine years of his career in Toronto. He has averaged at least 20 points in each of the last five seasons.

“The Spurs’ No. 1 demand – and it was non-negotiable – was if you wanted to trade for Kawhi Leonard, you had to send us back an established 20-points-per-game scorer at the least,” Lawrence said. “Not Jayson Tatum, who may score 20 pints a game for the rest of his carer, but somebody who’s more established. Obviously the Lakers don’t have that player, and obviously Toronto did in DeMar DeRozan.”

The Spurs ultimately traded Leonard and Danny Green for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick.

“I thought they did pretty well considering Kawhi Leonard didn’t want to be there anymore,” Lawrence said. “Now, look, you got to admit this it is one of the worst days in the history of the San Antonio Spurs because a 27-year-old player – who’s one of the three or four best players in the NBA – basically didn’t want to be there anymore. Considering where the Spurs are in terms of being the gold standard and everybody loves the job that Popovich has done over 20 years, this takes you back to when the Spurs were kind of a laughingstock franchise down there in little old sleepy San Antonio back in the ’80s and ’90s before Gregg Popovich came aboard and made them into this gold standard. When you have to trade a Kawhi Leonard – he’s 27 and he’s been a Finals MVP – that is not a good day at all for your franchise.”