Kawhi Leonard has ushered in a new era of player empowerment.
Player empowerment has been one of the biggest topics in basketball over the last couple of years. Unlike many other sports, basketball players have the ability to request trades seemingly at random and end up getting what they want. Players are able to create superteams and get massive contracts compared to their teammates. Over the years, it has become clear that the players have all the power and the general managers are simply sitting ducks who must do everything to keep their stars happy.
Kawhi Leonard is a solid example of this trend. Back in 2018, Leonard was able to force his way out of San Antonio after they mishandled his injury. This inciting incident was recently talked about by Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports. In his report, he notes that this particular issue had GM's clutching their pearls.
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Per NBC Sports:
"So, what’s going on here? Polling some executives over the past few weeks, it’s clear that the league over the years has shifted the power structure to appear more player-centric, erring on the side of caution to protect their star player and also demonstrate a certain appreciation for the player’s long-term career.
As for the origin of this recent trend, several pointed to a single event: Kawhi Leonard forcing his way out of San Antonio in 2018 after a disagreement over how to handle his quad issue.
“Kawhi scared the living hell out of everyone,” said one GM. “If it can happen to the Spurs, it can happen to anybody.”"
Kawhi eventually got traded to the Toronto Raptors and helped them win a championship. Now, he's on the Los Angeles Clippers and is about to the same. Clearly, player empowerment is working as long as you're not the GM on the wrong side of it.