It feels like ages ago that news first surfaced Kawhi Leonard wanted out of San Antonio. The often absent and seemingly quiet forward spoke volumes when he chose not the rejoin the Spurs at the end of last season and was then caught on video in LA — a city he's been rumored to want to play in next season. With all sides under the impression Kawhi will eventually end up in Los Angeles — either with the Lakers or the Clippers — one has to wonder what's taking so long? Why not just move forward with the inevitable?
The Spurs have to know they can't salvage this relationship. The asking price for one of the NBA's best defensive forwards is out there but things are never quite as simple as they appear to be. There are issues of trust between GM's and the player and his agent, there is the issue of long-term potential, Leonard's health and more.
Here are just a few reasons this trade is taking so much longer than everyone expected it might.
Other Teams Need Permission to Speak to Kawhi
As property of the San Antonio Spurs, the organization needs to give permission to other teams to chat with their superstar. It can be argued the Spurs should let that process begin and that they have no chance to make Kawhi happy but there's seeing what options exist for the franchise and then relinquishing control of the process. The Spurs aren't likely to do that.
Instead, opposing teams are finding creative ways of evaluating where Kawhi is at. One has to remember, this whole issue started because Kawhi missed the bulk of last season with a serious quad injury. If a team is going to give up multiple assets to land Kawhi in trade, they need to know he's healthy. There's been no word from Kawhi's camp, no videos of him playing or practicing and throughout the issues between the Spurs and Leonard, both sides have remained tight-lipped. If the Spurs aren't allowing those conversations to take place, teams are simply guessing.
There are, of course, concerns that trading for Leonard puts the team who acquires him at risk because there is no guarantee he'll stay beyond next season. Is Leonard a one-year rental? Or, is he the type of player who might be willing to play outside of LA, as long as it's not with the Spurs?
There are also reports the uncertainty felt by NBA GM's that they don't have an existing relationship with Leonard's agent, Mitch Frankel is a real problem. Because they can't read Frankel or have no basis to measure what he says when he talks about the feelings of his one and only client, there is worry about trusting the wrong account of how Leonard might feel about joining their organization.
Teams may have luck landing Leonard and then convincing him to stay, but at best, that's still a risk.
These Teams Have A Lot To Lose
If a lack of trust exists and if teams are uncertain about Leonard's future, these teams take a large risk of talking trade or putting out there what they'd make available in exchange for Leonard. Should Leonard not be interested, these same teams will have exposed the names of players who will now know their organization deems them as expendable. If those same players ended up staying put, how do those relationships grow over time?
Being a part of an organization that was publicly prepared to move you is never a good scenario. It takes a rare breed of player not to be bothered by that. For NBA GM's, they can't risk the dysfunction that could seep into the locker room should that type of situation present itself.
Spurs Want Control
One GM called the delay on the side of the Spurs the false sense of creating leverage. Known as a team who only likes to deal when the deck is stacked for them, the Spurs are losing control of this situation and they're desperately trying to hold onto the notion they "don't have to trade" Kawhi.
To the Spurs, there's still a false sense they can iron things out with the player. These same people argue it's why long-time Spurs guard Tony Parker was allowed to leave in free agency; so that the Spurs gave the impression the most public figure in the discomfort of Leonard's beef with the team is no longer a problem.
This is not just trading a player for the sake of a trade. This isn't just trading assets for assets. This trade is complicated and it has the potential to directly affect the long-term future of whatever franchises are involved. That sort of trade takes time.