Storyline: Kawhi Leonard Free Agency

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The showdown concluded Friday night, with the league’s balance of power at stake. The Raptors engaged with Oklahoma City in trade talks, though not at the highest levels. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook was believed to be interested in playing with Kawhi, but sources say he was never discussed in talks with the Raptors. And even then, the ask for George was astronomical: Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and four unprotected first-round picks, before they even started matching up salaries to account for George’s higher number. Perhaps that would have been where Westbrook came in, but not likely.

“It’s certainly disappointing,” Nurse admitted after first saying Leonard’s decision to return to his native Los Angeles was not a total surprise. “I think we all knew that was a situation that could happen and he delivered big-time,” Nurse said at half-time of Toronto’s Summer League game against the Golden State Warriors. “He’s first of all a great person. He was unbelievably fun to coach, just locked in, loaded and ready to go. When people would ask me what was it like coaching him and I always said the best thing was I got to stand there on the courtside and watch this guy go to work. And that was something I’ll never forget. Now we’ve got to go kick his ass,” Nurse said with a smile, echoing the words point guard Fred VanVleet had uttered about Toronto’s task should Leonard become a former teammate.

Enter Paul George, the Oklahoma City star who sources say was heavily recruited by Leonard in those days leading up to his trade demand and this blockbuster deal that pairs the two of them with the Clippers. Talk about the least likely of pitchmen. The league’s quietest talent, the man whose one-of-a-kind laugh has been dissected like the Zapruder film and who so many were still convinced was a cyborg because of his robotic ways, got this deal done by selling a fellow Southern California native in the kind of way that left the Thunder with no choice but to make this move. “Kawhi recruited the hell out of him,” one source close to the situation said. “He did a number on Paul.”

If George didn’t get his wish, would he be fully engaged? And if he wasn’t, would he go public with his trade demand during the season? That worst-case scenario could have left the Thunder with a disgruntled superstar undercutting his own trade value. There was no easy way out for Oklahoma City. But there was a strong sense, sources said, the Clippers needed George to secure Leonard. And that gave the Thunder some leverage that was unlikely to be available in the future.

Green said he talks to Leonard — who has maintained a low profile over the last week despite elaborate attempts to track his every move and brainwave — from time to time. But he, like the city of Toronto and the rest of the country, is still waiting for a decision. “Has it surprised me? No. Did I think it would take this long? No,” he said of Leonard’s deliberations over whether to stay and play for the Raptors, or leave for either the Clippers or Lakers in Los Angeles.

As the most sought-after basketball player in the world after leading Toronto to its first NBA championship, Leonard is no longer the teenager who never received scholarship offers from blue-blood colleges. Times have changed, but everything about Leonard’s quiet handling of free agency has felt familiar for Hutson, one of only a few people in the world who knows what it is like to recruit, and land, Leonard. The major influences on Leonard — his mother, Kim Robertson, and uncle, Dennis Robertson — are the same now as they were in high school. “He’s going to make [his decision] on his own terms, his own time,” Hutson said. “He’s going to talk to the people important to him about it. He’s not going to be out leaking every little bit or have an announcement.”
2 months ago via ESPN

Leonard taking his time to make an NBA-altering decision had some scouts attempting what so many others were doing — trying to read into Leonard’s thought process. “Biggest surprise I would have to say is that Kawhi still hasn’t decided,” one scout said on Tuesday night. “He is really mulling it over, exhausting every option.” Said another scout: “Let’s be honest, everyone knows that if the Warriors were healthy, they would have won. So is he sure if he comes back that he would have a chance to win it with [Toronto]? “If I’m him, I’m going to the Lakers.”


Free agent guard Danny Green might not wait for Kawhi Leonard’s decision before securing a new contract this summer. Green reportedly has the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Toronto Raptors on his short list of possible destinations. It is widely believed that he is waiting if Kawhi will stay in Toronto or sign with the Lakers before making a decision. But with Leonard remaining mum on his future, Green is reportedly considering signing with the Mavs. Green’s Inside The Green Room co-host Harrison Sanford said on the Ben & Skin Show on 105.3 The Fan that the two-time NBA champion “really valued what the Mavs have put in front of him.” And because of the lack of signs on where Leonard intends to ink a deal, Green is reportedly leaning towards making a decision soon. “Danny’s gotten to the point where he’s seriously considering passing on waiting for Kawhi to make a decision,” Sanford said. “He has to take care of himself. He plays in the NBA and he’s very cognizant as all players are of what’s out there on the market for him and for players like him.”

When asked how a theoretical big three of Leonard, Anthony Davis and LeBron James would compare to other big threes throughout the history of the league Dudley told Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod” that it might be the best such triumvirate ever: “It compares to the Heat, but a little bit more on steroids. And the reason why I say that is because you arguably have three of the top five best players. I think that Wade and ‘Bron were considered that, I think Bosh was a little bit (outside of that)… AD, a year ago you could’ve argued him as being a top two or three best player in the league. Kawhi Leonard this year, taking his team to winning a championship. LeBron, his accolades speak for themselves.

“From what I’ve heard, and I know you trust me with this just because I have these weird relationships, especially living out here in Los Angeles now. The Kawhi pitch, whether it is from the Lakers or LeBron, is this: LeBron basically is saying, ‘Hey, this is going to be your team in two years.’ I have heard this for years, but LeBron at one point wants to play with his son (Bronny). And depending on when that happens, that’s going to be LeBron’s priority and that may not be with the Lakers,” Russillo said on the Woj Pod. “So, I don’t know when that is going to be. LeBron is saying for the first time in his basketball life that he is willing to defer the style of play. They are going to tell Kawhi, ‘You can take all the last shots. We can run the offense through you.’ “


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August 18, 2019 | 9:06 pm EDT Update
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August 18, 2019 | 7:41 pm EDT Update