Former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager, David Griffin, discussed the Kawhi Leonard situation with the San Antonio Spurs on The Bill Simmons Podcast.
As the 2018 offseason nears its start, the San Antonio Spurs will be amongst the main topics of conversation. That’s due to the status of Kawhi Leonard, who missed all but nine games in the 2017-18 season due to a right quadriceps injury. This created a rift between the player and organization and sets up for an interesting standoff.
Former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager, David Griffin, is not unfamiliar to working with a star player. Before the franchise relieved Griffin of his duties, he rostered LeBron James from 2014-17, including getting “King James” to return in the 2014 offseason.
On the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Griffin was asked for his thoughts on the Leonard saga and what he would do:
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“My intention wasn’t to say L.A. makes the most sense. Just that it’s as likely as anything else. San Antonio could be as likely as anything else. Why couldn’t San Antonio clear the space to bring [LeBron James] and make Kawhi happy? ‘Bron thinks Pop is an absolute icon, so that’s an outcome that can happen, as well, and if somebody can pull that off it’s Pop.
For me, when I’m looking at it, and you’re making the decision to do this, you have to start with ‘this is the Spurs.’ If this was any other organization, I would believe all the fire-starter nonsense about “he has to leave.” I don’t think you have to do anything. [Bill Simmons] said it about Jerry Buss, ‘no, I am not trading Kobe Bryant.’
Pop has the level of power to say ‘no, I’m not trading Kawhi Leonard.’ But, if you’re not gonna do that, you need to put him in a position to dictate outcomes, so maybe you change pieces around him. That’s more likely than they just cave and move the guy.”
Griffin also called it a “terrible look” that Leonard did not join the Spurs bench for the playoffs. The “Klaw” received scrutiny in San Antonio’s first-round series for his absence.
The Kobe Bryant comparison is intriguing. Spurs ownership, which may be in flux, could step in to prevent a Leonard trade. However, given Gregg Popovich’s role within the organization and the long-tenured R.C. Buford at general manager, maybe they pull a Jerry Buss and refuse to give into their star player’s potential demand or work with another franchise’s desire to acquire him.
However, the Spurs can’t control free agency. They can lose Leonard in the open market in 2019, pending he remains with the team in 2018-19 and does not sign a $219 million contract extension. That leaves the Silver and Black with no return, if the San Diego State product leaves next summer, and a worst-case scenario for this situation.
This seemingly leaves the power in Leonard’s hands down the road. For now, while under contract, the Spurs can do whatever they want. Will that mean they successfully iron out the relationship with their expected face of the franchise?