SAN ANTONIO – Rumors have been swirling for days and weeks about the status of Kawhi Leonard and the latest might be the most shocking of the bunch.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said Sunday evening that league executives have told him Leonard would be willing to sit out next season in an effort to get to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Don’t rule out the possibility of Kawhi Leonard sitting out next season before he’s willing to come back to the San Antonio Spurs,” Smith said. “That’s how badly he wants out, that’s how badly he wants to remain in L.A. and that is the situation.”
Smith later added that he has not heard that directly from Leonard or anyone else associated with his camp, but said not to rule out anything when it comes to the Spurs' all-star forward.
For those asking, here is the video of @stephenasmith saying he's been told by NBA execs to not rule out the possibility of Kawhi Leonard sitting out next season in an effort to get to #Lakers ➡️ https://t.co/pSac4T4gpg— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) July 2, 2018
Social media reacted to the news and quickly pointed out rules in the league’s collective bargaining agreement that protect teams from a player attempting to sit out.
Leonard would essentially be under contract for another year if he did not meet his obligations for next season.
However, there is some precedent when it comes to a player demanding a trade and threatening to sit out if those demands were not met.
Last summer, star guard Kyrie Irving reportedly threatened to not show up to Cavs training camp if he was not dealt.
According to a January 2018 report on Cleveland.com, Irving threatened to have surgery during the season, which would force him to miss time.
A player must, contractually, play if he is healthy, but it’s a different story if the player is injured.
The Spurs saw firsthand last season the complexities of dealing with an independent medical staff, which players are entitled to under the CBA.
Leonard sitting out would be highly unimaginable, but that scenario also illustrates how extreme the rumors of demise of the Spurs-Kawhi relationship have gotten.