That is the claim of former NFL star-turned-NBA pundit Cris Carter.

Leonard is keen to leave San Antonio after a fall-out with the organisation over the quad injury that kept him to just nine games last season.

And it is no secret that the All-Star forward wants to go to his California hometown, be it via a trade this summer or when he has the option to enter free agency in 12 months’ time.

But while Leonard has long been strongly linked with a move to the Lakers, who recently recruited LeBron James, the Spurs have demanded a major return package to let the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year leave.

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard’s complex trade saga expects to rumble on for a while yet

The Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers have emerged as potential alternatives although there is no guarantee Leonard will re-sign with any team outside of Los Angeles after a one-year deal.

It has been suggested that the 28-year-old will only move to the Sixers and not the Celtics if he does not get his Los Angeles wish with the Sixers looking to add a star name to their talented young line-up.

Gregg Popovich Kawhi Leonard

Carter’s claims contradict suggestions the Spurs will do everything but trade Leonard to the Lakers

Kawhi Leonard Gregg Poppovich

Gregg Poppovich wants to accommodate Kawhi Leonard’s request according to Cris Carter

And Carter has revealed that, despite beliefs, Popovich wants to make Leonard happy – hinting that he would trade him to a rival in the Western Conference rather than a team in the East.

I believe Popovich is trying to accommodate Kawhi and trying to please him.

Cris Carter

Speaking on First Things First on Fox Sports, Carter – who has the same agent as Leonard – said: “Kawhi, in meeting with Pop, Pop gave him every indication that he was going to trade him and he was going to try to make Kawhi happy.

“I never said that before because I was holding it until now. 

“So all these discussions about Kawhi going to the East, I believe Popovich is trying to accommodate Kawhi and trying to please him.”

On why the Spurs would be better suited to trading Leonard to the Lakers this summer, Carter added: “If you do help him, you’re going to fetch the best of talent and picks.

“Why would Philadelphia give him [Pop] two starters and two picks when he’s only going to be there for one year if he shows up? 

“You can’t guarantee me Kawhi is going to show up at your facility if you’re Boston or Philadelphia and you train for him today.”

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard wants out of the Spurs after seven seasons

Despite Carter’s claim, the Spurs are likely to only give the go-ahead to a trade that suits the franchise best – the Spurs looking for multiple assets to fill the void left by Leonard’s inevitable exit.

A trade to the Lakers is still possible although it is more likely that – with no other team potentially willing to make a trade – they will wait for him to become a free agent next year and sign him that way.

That would allow them to keep the core of young talent on their roster albeit weaken their hopes of challenging the Golden State Warriors this year despite James’ arrival. 

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