Storyline: Kawhi Leonard to Lakers?

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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.’ “


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.”

During an appearance on Spectrum Sportsnet, Broderick Turner of The L.A. Times laid out some of the details of that conversation, including that Leonard’s camp has spoken with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who may or may not be included in the Lakers’ official free agent pitch meeting with Leonard: “The first thing that I’ll start with is that Kawhi and his uncle, Uncle Dennis, they talked to Magic several times. They’ve also talked with Rob Pelinka. They want to meet with Jeanie Buss and Magic. Magic can’t meet with them when Jeanie is in the room, or if Rob Pelinka is also invited… The NBA rules are kind of stipulating that you can bring anyone with that’s a non-employee, but because Magic worked for the Lakers, because they’ve been hit with tampering fines (he can’t be in there with them).”

“There was one interesting question (Leonard) had for Magic: ‘Did you guys try to trade for me when I was in San Antonio?’ And the answer was ‘yes, but because it was Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, and our history, they were asking for 2,000 draft picks — well, not 2,000 — like four draft picks, first-round draft picks, and we just couldn’t do that.’ And that was one of his questions. “The uncle’s questions were ‘what’s really going on in the organization between you, Jeanie, Rob Pelinka, everyone? Is it as dysfunctional as we’re reading and hearing?’ And the response was ‘we had some issues, but we’re past that. I’m past that. We’re still a family, such as you fight with your brothers and sisters sometimes, well, I had somewhat of a disagreement with my sister. And Rob Pelinka, yes, I said he was a back-stabber, but that happened then. Now I want the Lakers to be a championship team. Having Kawhi here would do that.

After the disastrous debut season of LeBron in Laker Land, where he missed a career-high 27 games (18 because of a groin strain) and missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2005 after EIGHT consecutive Finals appearances, he has no illusions about the height of the stakes here or the part that he needs and wants to play. And according to a source close to James, it’s this focus on being an incredible teammate that will be at the center of his message to Leonard.

Once the Lakers cleared enough cap space yesterday to get another max or near max player, it was a foregone conclusion that they would set their sights on Kawhi Leonard. But the idea that Kawhi would play for the Lakers has been more farfetched — why would he want to be the second or third wheel behind LeBron James and potentially Anthony Davis when he’s won championships as the focal point of multiple teams? But Stephen A. Smith swooped in on Get Up this morning, and said twice that he has heard that Kawhi is “seriously considering the Lakers”:

While a source with knowledge of the Knicks’ plans said they appear likely to get a meeting with Leonard, the Lakers’ prospects are harder to gauge. This much is safe to say, though: Their ability to not only offer his preferred market, all the business benefits that come with their storied brand and the chance to partner with James and Davis might ultimately play a part here (as our Bill Oram notes here, the Lakers – who are on track to have $23.7 million in cap room if the Davis deal goes down on July 6 as expected – are confident they can make the necessary moves to fit in another max salary).

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.”

While the odds-on favorites are the Clippers—fulfilling Leonard’s supposed interest in playing where he grew up—one Eastern Conference vice president says the Raptors still have a “fighting chance” to re-sign him, while a Western Conference VP says the Lakers are operating as if “they think they have a strong shot” at adding Leonard after acquiring New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis to play alongside their incumbent star, LeBron James, in a deal that can’t be officially consummated until next month.

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.


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?'”

One name that’s flown under the radar to a large extent — despite a seamless fit and connections to the Lakers organization — is Klay Thompson, and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN says his name has come up with those she’s spoken to in an appearance on “ESPNLA Mornings with Keyshawn, LZ and Travis”: “In terms of who they target next year, it’s whoever wants to come. “My feeling about it, my sense from just talking to people in and around this (is that) one, it’s a little early, but I think they like Mychal’s boy. I think that would be the guy, in terms of skillset and how that would fit. Obviously Kawhi, he’s a great player as well, but we’ll see if he stays in Toronto now. But I think they like Klay (Thompson).”

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.”

With LeBron officially agreeing to sign with the Lakers, it’ll be fascinating to monitor what type of leverage the Spurs can create for Kawhi Leonard, who still desires to play for the Lakers, according to multiple league sources—all of whom say offers to the Spurs have been underwhelming. One executive said the proposed packages have gotten worse with each round of negotiations, while another said they’re flat-out unacceptable. That might change if the Lakers are determined to add their second star now. Multiple league sources suggest the Lakers could send a package to the Spurs featuring Ingram, multiple first-round picks, a sign-and-trade involving Randle, and possibly Josh Hart.

Peter Vecsey: Now what? “Emotionally, Kawhi has checked out of the Spurs. He wants the Lakers, even though it means forfeiting $80 million. Everyone is shocked he’d give up that much money. But when it’s emotional, there’s no logic,” said the source. “He’s an artist. When artists know they’re getting jerked, they want out no matter what the cost. He feels the organization didn’t even try to wrap its arms around him. You don’t know anyone until you go through something difficult. Kawhi got to see people’s true colors.
2 years ago via ESPN

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said Thursday night that the franchise’s desire is to keep disgruntled All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard in the fold but that the club “will explore all of our options.” Among the issues Leonard has had with the Spurs is his frustration with the team’s handling of a quadriceps injury that kept him out of action for all but nine games this past season. Leonard wants to be traded to Los Angeles, preferably to the Lakers, sources have told ESPN.

According to Robinson, Kawhi has to take responsibility and step up as a leader of the franchise if he wants to be viewed on the same level as LeBron James. “If you want to be a top two or three player in the league, you’ve got to be a leader. LeBron doesn’t sit around waiting for people to talk for him. LeBron gets out there and says ‘hey, this is my team, this is what’s happening.’ And I think that’s where Kawhi is. He’s meant so much for our franchise. We love him, we all want him to be there next year. But we want him to be there and take control.”
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