Storyline: Kawhi Leonard to Clippers

96 rumors in this storyline

Blake Griffin thinks Kawhi Leonard choosing the Clippers is “good for basketball” … but warns the superstar that L.A. definitely has it’s ups and downs! Griffin would know … he spent 8 seasons with the L.A. Clippers before being traded to the Detroit Pistons in early 2018. In fact, Blake still spends a bunch of his time in Los Angeles — he was at the famous Comedy Store on Friday night — so, we asked him about Kawhi’s big move.

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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.”

Kawhi Leonard: Real traction towards Lakers?

Colin Cowherd: “You’re tied to the Lakers/Clippers stuff, so what are your sources telling you today about how the Lakers feel?” Arash Markazi: “They’re not nervous right now. They are not as nervous as you would think they would be with all these names they could potentially sign if they don’t get Kawhi coming off the board. They are 100% all in on Kawhi. It doesn’t mean that they know they’re going to get him, but they didn’t create this cap space for a hail mary. They were cautiously optimistic and don’t view themselves as a dark horse pick. They think they have a real chance.”

Lowe: It seems like it’s a two-team race. Is that fair at this point? Woj: Yeah. Toronto, the Clippers, and listen, I think they’ve kept their eye on the Lakers, and what that’s going to look like. The Lakers, financially, what number are they going to get to in free agency in terms of cap space? Is Anthony Davis going to give up that $4 million trade bonus? He still has time to do that before this deal goes through. “But this has been a Raptors/Clippers race. And you gotta give the Raptors and Masai Ujiri, that organization, all the credit in the world, because when they traded for him, he had no intention of ever staying in Toronto, and now it is a serious consideration. “I think he has really given them every opportunity to sell him, and two things that have worked in Toronto: They sold him on health, they proved they could keep him healthy, and they sold him on winning. And those are priorities for Kawhi Leonard. He has shown he is all about winning.”

But there are a handful of teams who could secure a meeting with the 2019 NBA Finals MVP, sources said. The appeal of returning home to Southern California is enticing to the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but with the trust the Raptors built while Leonard led the franchise to its first NBA title by upsetting the Golden State Warriors, rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins June 30, sources said.

“The reality is Kawhi Leonard’s focused on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers, not the Lakers. No. 1, they don’t have the money to sign him. And two, the idea of him being a third wheel on a team trying to create a superteam, that has not been Kawhi’s M.O. The Clippers are poised to be able to lure him from Toronto. This will be a Raptors-Clippers fight down to the end. He may take meetings with more teams; it’s not even certain he’d even take a meeting with the Lakers right now.”

The team most associated with Leonard as far as a landing spot in free agency are the Clippers. Their confidence in Leonard picking them in a few weeks has been reportedly high for much of the year. But, league sources said over the last few days, the Clippers are seeing what we’re seeing — Leonard leading the team for which he currently plays to the brink of its first title. The Clippers, those sources said, feel confident Leonard will answer the phone when they call on June 30, but beyond that there is no way to know what impact Leonard’s Finals run will have. Those sources said the Clippers spend most of their time in meetings preparing for scenarios in which he doesn’t come to L.A.

Kawhi Leonard is also a priority for the Knicks this summer. The Knicks will not be shy in their courting of the Raptors star. But the Clippers and Raptors are widely seen as the most logical options for Leonard in free agency. But people close to Leonard viewed New York as a potential destination for the star two-way player when he was engineering a trade out of San Antonio. So the Knicks should at least get a meeting with Leonard once free agency begins on June 30.

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.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explained that Leonard could take meetings with teams that could pay him his much-awaited max contract, but ultimately would be narrowed down to two front-runners: “I think teams like New York, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, teams who potentially have significant cap space, he might take meetings with them,” Wojnarowski said of Leonard as a guest on ESPN’s “Get Up!” “But I think by the time you get to July 1, typically players have a really strong idea about where they’re gonna go and usually their eyes are not getting opened in a one- or two-hour meeting with a team they haven’t given great consideration to. I think this is Clippers and Raptors. “The Raptors can pay him more, they can pay him a $200-million-plus deal if he wants to stay in Toronto.”

If you want rumors and predictions, they’re not hard to find in this gossipy league. Rival executives will tell you, without hesitation, that Durant is bound for the Knicks; that Irving is likely to join him; that Leonard likes the Clippers; that Butler might choose the Lakers—unless he chooses the Nets. Of course, they all might stay put. (Well, except for Durant. Virtually everyone believes he’s leaving the Warriors.) No one knows for sure. Predictions are flimsy.
1 year ago via TSN

The Los Angeles Clippers are expected to make the most aggressive push for Leonard, and they’ve made little secret of it. The Clippers have had representatives at many Raptors games this season, home and away, ranging from scouts, to assistant general manager Mark Hughes – who attended Friday’s game against Oklahoma City – to team president Lawrence Frank and billionaire owner Steve Ballmer.The Clippers – like the Lakers, who some league insiders believe to be less of a draw to Leonard – can offer at least a few things Toronto can’t. They can offer a warmer climate and an opportunity for the California native to play closer to home. If those are the factors that end up powering Leonard’s decision, the Raptors don’t stand a chance and likely never did.

Asked to handicap Leonard’s future, one front office executive from another team said, “I think the Lakers are out, but the Clippers are the ones who think they have a shot at him if they decide to go that route. You hear a lot, he still wants to be on the West Coast. But give that group in Toronto all the credit in the world. They’re making it a tough decision for him. “It might come down to just, ‘All right, how did the playoffs go, and how far are we from a championship?'”

Leonard will become an unrestricted free agent this summer once he declines his 2019-20 player option with the Toronto Raptors. “I do not,” Wright said when asked if he believes Leonard would have interest in playing with James on the Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective Podcast. “That’s just what I’ve been told. It’s what I’ve been told going back to last summer. I don’t see that as something that’s happening. “I think he goes to the Clippers.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Those are two things the LA Clippers can offer, which is part of why their pursuit of Leonard has drawn so much attention. Some aspects of it have been overt, such as the Clippers’ presence at many of his games this season in a scouting capacity. Others have been less so, such as their decision to hire former Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins. The popular opinion among league executives six months before Leonard makes his decision is that he’ll choose between the Raptors and the Clippers. If it comes down to those two teams, the chance for Leonard to come home and to stay away from snow could be the Clippers’ strongest argument.

A day later in Oakland, where the Raptors had gone to face Golden State, I circled back with Leonard to make sure I read the situation right. Sure enough, as he confirmed, he didn’t know the man who had been standing there when we said hello. “No, who was it?” he asked. “Lawrence Frank, the head of the Clippers’ front office,” I replied. “Oh, that was Lawrence Frank?” he said with a smile (and no, to answer the obvious question, he didn’t share one of his legendary laughs).

This chatter fills sports talk radio shows, Twitter debates, message boards, broadcast airwaves, and more. The noise also ramps up when Leonard goes to places he has been linked, such as Los Angeles. “I focus on what we’re doing,” Leonard said of his reaction to all the speculation prior to his Raptors knocking off the Clippers Tuesday night (without him due to a sore hip). “I don’t buy into reading media, don’t have no social media, so just focus on what’s in front of me. At that time it’s either my family or playing basketball.” Does what is being said bother him? “Not at all. I don’t watch TV too much,” Leonard said, adding he uses apps to watch movies and TV shows.

As time has gone on, those rumours have focused more on the Los Angeles Clippers. The Los Angeles Lakers boast LeBron James and the greatest marketing advantage in the sport, but there are some around the league who feel that James’ shadow looms too large and that the impatience the Lakers are already showing with their four-year plan could erode their sales pitch. They will always be the Lakers, which carries weight, even if Leonard promptly shut down questions about any Laker fandom in his childhood. (He was an Allen Iverson fan, which could point to a willingness to go against the grain and be his own person. Or, you know, it could point to very little, because it’s just fandom. Leonard is not the type to tip his hand in any sort of way by answering gratuitous questions, or to answer them much at all.)

Bowen proceeded to criticize the Clippers: “Kawhi never said ‘I want to play for the Clippers.’ Kawhi said he wanted to play for the Lakers. Unfortunately, if you’re going to run your organization based on hopes, maybe, and getting rid of others, now if I tore him down and if I was disrespectful to him, that’s one thing. But that’s not the case. As an analyst, I’m supposed to talk about what I see and what I feel for this game that I love. If you can’t do that, what does that say about your organization?”

As has been well-documented, the task for Toronto in the coming year is to persuade Leonard to stay in a place and perform for a team for which he had no desire to play just a few short weeks ago. It’s a tall order, and if the Raptors can do it, the massive gamble they took this month will have paid off. Most around the league still expect that Leonard will look to return home to Southern California, either to join LeBron James with the Lakers or bring his star power to the Clippers.

MARC STEIN: But I did hear enough chatter in various Vegas conversations to believe that the Raptors have given legit consideration to gambling on a trade for Leonard, with three obvious problems to contend with: 1) Leonard can leave in free agency at season’s end, even if the Raptors are fortunate enough to trade for him. 2) Leonard’s camp has given no indication to any interested team that he plans to sign anywhere but Los Angeles (with either the Lakers or the Clippers) in July 2019. 3) Leonard’s readiness for next season, thanks to the quadriceps injury that limited him to nine games last season, has to concern teams in Toronto’s position as much as the idea of trading for him and losing him months later.

Kawhi Leonard not that into Clippers

Adrian Wojnarowski: “I’ve been told that one of the reasons [Kawhi Leonard] looks at going to the Clippers – is a little less motivated [to go to the Clippers] is because initially, the idea of Los Angeles was fine to him – he preferred the Lakers but was all right with the Clippers – but now that LeBron James is there, the idea of going head-to-head with LeBron – to have Kawhi with the Clippers and LeBron with the Lakers, and to maybe feel dwarfed by that – I’m told that’s become far less appealing for him.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said. The Spurs are unlikely to be motivated to facilitate a deal to the Lakers, league sources said.
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“Even with all that in the past, I was always self-motivated,” Warren told ESPN by phone Wednesday. “Never allowed nobody to put a limit on my talent. No matter what the political stuff was or anything from high school, college to the NBA, you always face adversity, but I feel like it’s how you respond, how you rise to the occasion and I feel like me, personally, I just always feel like I’m able to adapt and respond in a positive way with my game.
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Jim Boylen a keeper?

But as the Sun-Times learned this week, even if Karnisovas didn’t like what he would have seen from Boylen he would likely be handcuffed from making a change. According to several sources, there is strong growing momentum that financial concerns the Reinsdorfs have about the 2020-21 NBA season will keep Boylen in his current seat, as well as most of the coaching staff.
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At 6-foot-5 with a 6-9 wingspan and 225 pounds, he could grow into what the Hawks need defensively at the two-guard position next to Trae Young. The problem is getting him to buy all the way in on that end of the floor. There are several skeptics who worry about Edwards’ effort and willingness to fully commit to giving his best effort defensively. From what I’ve been told, his work ethic is definitely a big question mark for many people in the league, including some in Atlanta’s organization.
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Damian Lillard on high school basketball: The other thing that makes it sad is the level of complacency because you’ve been told like you’re gonna make it and you’re gonna be a draft pick and you know, you don’t got to earn nothing. You don’t feel like you gotta work for nothing. And it’s sad when it’s time for them to make the NBA and they don’t make it. Like, either they don’t get drafted. Or they get drafted and they ain’t built to survive where everybody’s good. You know what I’m saying? Like, you’re talented and you, you know, you got all these gifts, but everybody got that. You know, I mean, like, if you if you’re 20 years old, or 19 or whatever, and you think you either come in here and just do whatever you want against Chris Paul, Pat Bev… Like if you think you bout to come in here and have your way, you don’t get embarrassed. You know, I’m saying like… Don’t nobody care about the hype. I don’t care what your agent told you. I don’t care what your manager, whoever is the person had been handling you since 10th grade… I don’t care what they told you. Once you get up here, you got to do it. And if you’re not prepared for it or mentally build for it, you’re not gonna make it. And that’s where you see a lot of these dudes. They get here and they don’t stick because they’re not built to make it here. And a lot of that has to do with the culture of high school basketball.

Former G League player Aaron Craft retiring

Ohio State alum Aaron Craft is officially focusing on medicine, he announced via a post on his personal Twitter account. “The new chapter has begun!” he wrote, “Excited, a little nervous, and extremely grateful to start a journey I’ve thought about for so long. I’ve always liked our home white jerseys!” From the beginning of the 2019-20 season prior to the coronavirus pandemic, he revealed his intentions to retire as a player after being accepted to the medical school at Ohio State University.
Statement from ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan: About three weeks ago during a discussion on the podcast The Hoop Collective, I misspoke when I expressed my opinion regarding the business practices of the Indiana Pacers, and inferred that Larry Bird had been frustrated during his time as team president. It was a careless remark, based solely on my opinion, and therefore should have never been said. Larry Bird never expressed those feelings to me, and I apologize to both Larry and team owner Herb Simon for poor choice of my words.