Kawhi Leonard Trying To Change The Way The Spurs Do Business

Kawhi Leonard

With Tim Duncan in the final days of his illustrious NBA career and partners in crime Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili not far behind, the world champion San Antonio Spurs view emerging star forward Kawhi Leonard as the new face of the franchise.

Yet, if that distinction is to pass the test of time, at least in the ways the Spurs have always prided themselves on having it do so, change could soon be coming to the very structure of Spurs Nation.

Long before the Big 3 days of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were fueled in Miami by three of the league’s biggest stars agreeing to take less for the right to forge the force of becoming one, the Spurs have operated based on such algorithms.

But with just mere hours remaining on a Friday deadline calling for a new deal for Leonard, word is the 2014 NBA Finals MVP is holding out for nothing less than a max extension and using the leverage that he can become a restricted free agent as early as next July as the ultimate trump card in making certain he nets it.

At just 23 years old and already certified as one the league’s best two-way players, there’s little question Leonard is deserving of such riches given his esteem; it just runs counter to the way the Spurs have always managed to stay afloat as a unit, stay afloat as equally decorated rivals like the Lakers and the Celtics have experienced more than their fair share of struggles largely based on their best players taking more lucrative deals elsewhere, or at least threatening to do so, if their somewhat stifling demands were not fully satisfied.

Conversely, the 38-year-old Duncan has steered clear of that way of doing business and from employing such negotiating tactics. An All-NBA selection in 14 of his 17 seasons, Duncan nonetheless has settled for contracts that paid him less than $20 million per in the same number of seasons he’s been an all-star. Just two years ago, in the wake of the Spurs coming up on the short-end of a gut-wrenching, seven games Finals series to the Heat, Duncan took an $11 million pay cut so the Spurs could use much of the money in retooling a roster that bounced back to dethrone the Heat and claim the fifth title of the Duncan era last season.

A five-time All-Star and four-time league champion in his own right, Parker has never earned more than $13.5 million per season and former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner Ginobili has pocketed just over $100 million over the course of his entire 12-year career.

But for the Spurs to stay the same, all of that will almost certainly now need to change. Leonard could top out with San Antonio with a five-year deal at roughly $90 million. And that’s precisely what his handlers are rumored to be demanding.

Indeed, in a league where the average salary almost certainly tops seven figures, that seems market-value for the second-youngest Finals MVP in history and a player versatile enough to average 13 points, six rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 2014.

The Spurs know and understand this, just as they understand and know for them to remain true to the winning tradition they’re widely known for they will almost certainly have to deviate from the way they’ve been blessed to be able to do business. That means simply showing Kawhi Leonard the money.

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Glenn Minnis
Glenn Minnis is an XN Sports NBA contributor. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, ESPN, BET and AOL. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.