NBA Rumor: Kawhi Leonard Sneaker Deal

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By 2018, concurrent with the R&D team, New Balance began pitching potential endorsees with the goal of bringing a shoe to market in October 2019. Remember, the typical turnaround is a year and a half. These early pitches didn’t have prototypes or samples. It was all theoretical, just hope and hunger waiting for a chance to come to life. During this time, the design team received word that Kawhi Leonard was on the radar. Usually a player of this caliber doesn’t ever hit the free agency market, but he had turned down a four-year, $22 million extension with Jordan Brand in March 2018 and the company announced that it would let him walk in October 2018.

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“We went from the world not knowing about New Balance Basketball in October (2018) to ‘Can we get him in a New Balance shoe by the All-Star game in February (2019)?’ ” Grondin said. “I’ve been enjoying it. One of the reasons that I came is I wanted to build and start something of my own,” Leonard explained in late January, after being asked why he chose to sign a multiyear contract with New Balance in the neighborhood of $5 million annually. “Start with this new company in basketball and they’ve been great. And we’re going to keep building this relationship from here.”

“We’re not going to turn Kawhi into an Instagram comedian,” Cassidy said when asked about the brand’s conscious decision to heavily lean into Leonard’s eccentricities. New Balance followed that up with another billboard, this one reading “Board Man Gets Titles,” a reference to a story by The Athletic that went viral last season. Merchandise followed in the form of plain black t-shirts with “Fun Guy” in the most ho-hum box lettering imaginable.

One of the better Kawhi Leonard anecdotes of the season, not surprisingly, involves the team that will be trying as hard as any to steal him from the Toronto Raptors after the N.B.A. finals. The Los Angeles Clippers are said to have quietly looked into the feasibility of purchasing the portion of the rights to Leonard’s “Klaw” logo that is still owned by Nike. The Clippers did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but such an acquisition would theoretically enable them to bestow full control of the logo upon Leonard as part of their anticipated free-agency pitch meeting with the Toronto superstar.

Forget for a moment that the financial outlay necessary to complete this kind of purchase, by any team, would most likely be considered a salary-cap violation. Let’s also briefly tune out that Nike, as emphasized to me recently by a top official from the sportswear giant, is intent on rebuffing all approaches and retaining its rights to that logo for as long as it can — to assure that it would not appear on gear made by Leonard’s new contract partners at New Balance.
3 years ago via ESPN

Would a new company be able to get the historically reserved Leonard to jump in on the arena entry trend, with a series of made-for-social-media-styled outfits that have helped to raise the star power of players around the league? And even if it did, would fans find a sudden pitchman persona contrived and forced, given Leonard’s longtime disdain for promotional appearances and public attention? Like most dynamics currently surrounding the embattled All-NBA forward, there’s no sensing where exactly his head is at, though the coming months should provide some resolution for all involved.

Nick DePaula on Kawhi Leonard’s talks with Jordan Brand: “Kawhi’s deal is going to be expiring this fall. Here’s where things stand with Kawhi. Over the course of this last season, there was an extension offer that was made, as Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright of ESPN first reported. This is pretty common because brands would rather offer an extension than have guys enter the summer and hear pitches from rival companies. In Kawhi’s case, the extension that was offered was four years and a little over $20 million. It was an incredibly fair deal, in my estimation. Obviously, Kawhi was a Finals MVP and he’s a great two-way player, but there are realities in terms of the San Antonio market and his marketability, so [his production] may not translate in terms of sales. There’s so much more that goes into selling shoes than just being a great player.”

Nick DePaula: “Kawhi’s team didn’t feel like that’s where his market was and they were looking at something in the range of $10-million-plus [per year], which is what a lot of the top signature guys get, like LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and even Derrick Rose, famously. Kawhi’s camp was looking at that double-digit range, but Jordan Brand was pretty much standing firm at $5-million-plus [per year]. Again, I think that’s a great offer. In Kawhi’s case, the thing that’s tough is that he’s tweeted just _four times_, the last of which went up three summers ago. He’s never had an Instagram page. His personality isn’t on display much at all. He’s not known for his entry-arena fashion, as a lot of guys are known for nowadays.”

Nick DePaula: “There are a lot of off-court dynamics that he hasn’t really built, so it’ll be interesting to see how they figure this out. He’ll likely take pitches from [companies] heading into August and we’ll see what happens. You look at a guy like Nick Young; I think a lot of brands would rather sign a guy like Nick Young than Kawhi! Obviously, on the court, it sounds crazy. But if you had to pick head-to-head, based on Nick’s social-media presence [and personality], I think you’d go with Nick at this point.”
3 years ago via ESPN

It’s unclear whether Leonard intends to leave Jordan Brand when his contract expires on Oct. 1, but a source close to the situation said the shoe company owns the right to match any competing offers. Once the brand’s exclusive negotiating window closes in July, Leonard and his representatives can start fielding potential new offers from other companies. Pitches are typically held in late August and early September, as players historically look to resolve shoe deals before the start of training camp in late September. Jordan Brand would have 10 business days to match any competing offer sheet signed by the forward. There are no current talks between Jordan Brand and Leonard’s representatives, sources said.
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April 14, 2021 | 9:05 am EDT Update
The biggest reason why is because Capela has played at an All-Defense level, and he should be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, alongside guys like Rudy Gobert, Ben Simmons, Bam Adebayo and Myles Turner. The Hawks are 6.7 points worse defensively when Capela sits this season. “I think he’s been probably one of the most consistent guys on the defensive end of the floor for us,” Nate McMillan said. “He has been helping us all season long. He’s not only been helping in blocking shots and rotating to the basketball, but rebounding at an elite level. What he’s been doing now, he’s been doing it all season for us. What we are trying to do is not have to have him clean up on the perimeter where we’re guarding and not keeping the ball in front so that he can stay attached to his man and rebound the basketball. With the adjustment for a center in today’s game, you’re not defending low-post or post-up players a lot in this league. You’re out on the perimeter having to help defend these quick guards in pick and rolls and make adjustments to get back to a shooter that can spread the floor. The consistency has been there all season long.”
When opponents do drive on him and try attacking at the rim, they’re only shooting 50.2 percent against Capela. That’s sixth-tenths of a percentage point worse than Gobert, who’s seen as one of the favorites in the DPOY race. I, myself, questioned before the start of the season if Capela was going to be as good as the Hawks talked him up to be and what they, frankly, needed him to be because of the center depth. He was never this good for the Rockets, but he’s been a godsend for this organization after having arguably the worst center depth rotation last season. Capela is not only third in the NBA in blocks, first in rebounds, but he’s also second in DRAPM, second in DRPM and second in defensive RAPTOR, all advanced metrics that Gobert ranks first in. This story isn’t about why Capela should win the award, only how he needs to be in the conversation. As someone who voted for the league’s awards last season, Capela would be on my ballot with Gobert and Simmons; and he would be on my second-team All-Defense.
When Sandiford-Artest watches Doncic, he’s as fascinated as much by his savvy as his skill, readily admitting that he would have had his hands full trying to slow down the Mavs’ star. “Luka, I mean, that kid is special,” Sandiford-Artest said. “I’m not going to lie to you, [defending him] would have been tough. What impresses me most is he’s a veteran at [22] years old. The way he sees it and feels it, he’s someone that I would have had problems with, because he would have been thinking ahead. He’d have been thinking steps ahead. He’s not one-dimensional.
At this moment, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Allen drops into a defensive stance. He pretends to shade Doncic to the supersized point guard’s left. “Go right. Do whatever you’re going to do,” Allen yells, sliding as he speaks. “You going to drive and lay it up? All right, I’m going to contest. Can you step back going right? OK then! You’re going to have to do everything to that right side. And what if you try to come back? I’m right here, motherf—er. I’m taking it! “You can’t get discouraged with prolific players. They’re going to score, but your job is to contain it and cut it down.
“If I can be a little physical with him and make him work a little bit more, a lot like [defending] Steve Nash. Now when it comes time to finish plays, maybe he’s not as geared to finish the plays quite like he was in the beginning, because he’s being pressured a little bit. Now he has to worry about what I’m doing from the standpoint of making him work, work, work while he has the ball and bringing it up the floor. “It’s not something comfortable. Yes, he can do it. But does he want to do it? Probably not.”
April 14, 2021 | 6:56 am EDT Update
Because of luxury-tax concerns, the feeling around the league is the Pelicans may pass on matching any offer over $20 million per season with rookie lottery-pick point guard Kira Lewis and combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the fold. The Post reported Ball has the Knicks on his radar. His father, LaVar, had hoped Ball’s youngest brother, LaMelo, would be drafted by the Knicks last November — wanting him to play amid the bright lights of New York City.