The Spurs Leverage Losing Steam

The Spurs melodrama is treading water. Sooner or later someone is going to drown. It happens in trades when a superstar is hostile towards his employer and can’t seem to find a middle ground. Paris is burning. The house of cards falls down. San Antonio, welcome to the club.

But it feels strange. Melodrama has always been the LeBron thing. But his circus that was supposed to run weeks is over and LeBron is in Europe on another vacay. It is Kawhi Leonard who is dragging the NBA public through a sorry excuse of a situation.  So far, his employer is trying to hold the Lakers hostage by gutting their team for a player no one even knows is healthy. Rumors abound with GM’s wanting to see video of Kawhi on the court. The Clippers in their Kawhi package reportedly wanted to see him healthy and by seeing him they mean footage and a workout. By nature of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, all trades must pass physicals but you kinda think Kawhi’s physical would be more involved than most since the Spurs are asking a team to give up the farm and their firstborn to get Kawhi.

As each day goes by and Kawhi is still a Spur and the Lakers, Celtics, 76ers don’t seem to be budging on their hell no’s, the Spurs lose their advantage. If Kawhi is still on the Spurs by the time training camp starts in this epic stare down- who blinks first- the Spurs will be sellers, the rest of the NBA will know it and the Spurs will be forced to take a crappy deal or let Kawhi walk for nothing.

The Lakers don’t want to give up Brandon Ingram, who they have a lot invested in and who is a versatile player. How versatile? Ingram is slotted in as the Lakers two guard for 2018-19 (barring a trade). All of last year, Ingram played the shooting guard position 3% of the time and 7%  of his rookie year. 84% of his career he’s been a small forward. But Ingram’s talent is prodigious enough that he can play multiple positions and it always helps when LeBron James sees Ingram as an on the cusp All-Star. Ingram’s work ethic, low key demeanor and dedication makes him a perfect fit for James which is why of all the Lakers, he is the one who is coveted. Not having LeBron James pressure the front office to do a deal has the Lakers in a buyer’s mode. They can afford to wait. The Spurs cannot.

Spurs Pressure Meter to Deal Kawhi to Tinsel Town: 9.0

The 76ers are unwilling to throw in the towel and exile number one pick Markelle Fultz for Kawhi. It’s admirable but makes zero sense because the 76ers have whiffed this off-season. Their team has not gotten better. (If you’re not getting better, you are getting worse). The Sixers pitch to LeBron was weak and then they watched Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli walk away, two pieces responsible for their 50 win season. The replacement for the Sixers scorers was Wilson Chandler, a nice enough scorer but someone who just cannot stay healthy. Chandler plays hard, has toughness, is a solid vet but clearly not a game changer and doesn’t replace what the Sixers lost.

Kawhi would fit seamlessly with what the Sixers are doing, no adjustments necessary. Reports are Kawhi may soften his stance and give the Sixers a shot at a long term deal. It may just be another false Kawhi rumor but don’t the Sixers owe it to the organization to get the best two-way player under 30, even if you have to give up Fultz who no one knows if he can really ball at this level? The Sixers are offering up Dario Saric.

Spurs Pressure Meter to Deal Kawhi to Philly. 6.5

The Celtics are adamant on keeping Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown. Danny Ainge doesn’t care what the rumors say about Kyrie loving him some MSG and wanting to team up with Jimmy Butler. Ainge is betting on himself and on the Celtics being the best team in the conference. If they give up anyone it would be Gordon Hayward. Sounds ridiculous but it is the only move that makes any sense. Kawhi is better than Hayward and it keeps the young C’s in tact. But as a package, it is underwhelming and damaged goods.

Spurs Pressure Meter to Deal Kawhi to the 2018-19 Eastern Conference Champs. 3.0

The Clippers are a Jerry West deal from going toe-to-toe with the Lakers. They have Tobias Harris, some draft picks and young players but that is not getting a deal with San Antonio done. They would have to add in Danilo Gallinari and even that is not enough to manage a deal with the Spurs. The Clippers have the least amount of talent to bargain with but if they could pull in a third team, it would be the greatest Clippers trade of all team, greater than Chris Paul. Translation: don’t hold your breath.

Spurs Pressure Meter to Send Kawhi to The Cursed Clippers. Spurs laughing.

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So what is San Antonio to do? Wait and let their influence choke on its own blood? Or pull the trigger now while teams are still in mixed feelings mode. Once the season starts, the Spurs will be desperate and no one is going to give up much. But there is a third option.

Stay put.

Play the season out, at least until the trade deadline. Call Kawhi’s bluff. If they get nothing for him, they get nothing for him. They will have cap space and then can be a player for Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving and the other 2019 free agent All-Stars. How about treat Kawhi the total opposite of the way he has treated them. When the marriage is over, move on with a new start and a new identity. You are the mother f*$^ing Spurs.

The problem with a trade is that you are taking on someone else’s salary and that inhibits the Spurs being a player in 2019.

They need a point guard desperately. They need to get younger. If the pieces aren’t out there, if they can’t swing for the fences and get a walk off- and frankly how often does that happen- then they just need to put their head down and do what the Spurs always do.

But what the Spurs always do is where the irony is. What the Spurs always do is execute. They never beat themselves. They just don’t make mental mistakes.

Until now. Until Kawhi Leonard pushed them into no-man’s land. Until the lost summer of 2018.