Throughout a regular season that included him playing only nine games, a gulf grew and Leonard regularly commuted between San Antonio and New York to rehab his own way, with his own people.
Leonard returned to San Antonio shortly after the Spurs were eliminated from the playoffs in late April, leaving the New York-New Jersey area where he had spent much of the past few months with his uncle/adviser, Dennis Robertson.
If Leonard wants the Spurs to make that super-maximum contract offer — and indications are indeed, yes, Leonard and his group want that offer – the history of how Popovich and Spurs president RC Buford do business suggests the offer won’t come without significant repairing of the relationship.
History suggests the Spurs could want to see Leonard return to the active lineup before making a super-max offer next year, see him reinvested fully into the program.
If the Spurs resist offering Leonard the $219 million now — and then he threatens to walk in free agency or asks for a trade this summer — it will get complicated for San Antonio.
Will the Spurs wait out Leonard and gamble he wouldn’t turn down the $219 million next year? Do the Spurs have leverage in a possible Leonard trade now? Does the marketplace limit where San Antonio can trade Leonard, because teams that don’t believe they can re-sign him in 2019 would be reluctant to part with major assets in a deal?
Kawhi Leonard’s uncertain future will be front and center, but San Antonio will enter the summer with the potential for half its roster becoming free agents.