Kawhi Leonard (2)
Speaking on the Los Angeles Lakers’ channel on Spectrum SportsNet earlier this week, NBA insider and salary cap expert Larry Coon reported extreme trade demands from the Spurs put the Celtics ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers, who aren’t willing to implode the existing roster around LeBron James to add Leonard, who is one season away from free agency.
Coon reported the Spurs asked the Lakers for Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram — all first-round picks in 2016 or ’17 — in addition to two future first-round picks for Leonard and a draft pick.
The nature of Leonard’s demand and reported interest in playing in Los Angeles would appear to limit the leverage of the Spurs.
What’s more, while Ainge said the Celtics always “explore every trade,” he was tepid in his remarks about chasing Leonard. Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday that the move was still a possibility based largely on Ainge’s history, but doubted Leonard’s interest in such a move.
Ainge has pulled off major trades many times before, including deals for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and last offseason landing point guard Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But Ainge might already have a title contender, especially with James in the Western Conference. The Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with Irving and Gordon Hayward out because of injuries.
“I feel great that we have a lot of players that people like and want,” Ainge said. “That’s a great feeling to have. That’s not always the case, and that’s the reason we like our guys, too, is we have a lot of talent on our team. I’m excited about our team going forward.”
The Celtics have popped up in a variety of trade rumors this offseason, particularly in connection with Leonard, after the two-time Defensive Player of the Year reportedly requested a trade.
ESPN reported Friday the Spurs were actively involved in discussions with the Celtics and Lakers about Leonard, but the Celtics also appear apprehensive to go all-in on Leonard due to concerns about his health and the possibility that he could leave in free agency next summer.
Ainge said Friday that the majority of reports and rumors about possible trades aren’t wholly accurate, adding that he has had to stay in touch with players (and agents of players) whose names appear in rumors to avoid souring relationships.
“I think that most of that is false,” Ainge said. “Especially the details of it. And what I don’t like about it is, I don’t like how names are just thrown around (in reports). [Reporters] probably don’t care about the names, and that’s your job is to make good stories and have things to talk about on the air. Most of it’s not true, but there’s sometimes bits and pieces of it that are true. So it’s not total lies, but — I can’t call it fake news — but it’s complex.
“These are complex situations, and I think that, just like [reporters] don’t like answering or having to respond to rumors, even though it does give you good programming, I don’t like it any more, having to deal with the players that are calling me and the agents that are calling me when their name is in a rumor that’s, like, just totally made up.”
–Field Level Media