Late Friday night, Kawhi Leonard stunned the NBA by finally making his free agency decision.
In that decision, Leonard spurned the Los Angeles Lakers — who many believed to be the frontrunner — and joined the Los Angeles Clippers. Not only that, in a blockbuster deal, the Clippers traded for Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Instantly after, reports began flying of how this decision came to be. It became clear that Leonard’s first choice was always the Clippers, but he did not want to go if it meant going alone. The Clippers made the trade for that reason, fearing he’d join the Lakers if they didn’t.
However, the NBA off-court drama is a never-ending battle of conflicting sources and it’s now being said that Leonard was never seriously considering the Lakers despite the previous reports of them being second place, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:
“A source told The Undefeated early last week that there was ‘no way’ Leonard was going to sign as a free agent with James, Davis and the Lakers despite speculation they were the front-runners.”
This obviously would be in complete conflict to the initial reports that Leonard would have picked the Lakers had it not been for the George trade:
As fears mounted that the Los Angeles Lakers had pushed to the cusp of creating an unprecedented Big Three, the LA Clippers made a blockbuster trade for Oklahoma City’s Paul George — and cleared the path for free agent Kawhi Leonard to sign a four-year, $141 million contract with the Clippers, league sources told ESPN.
Of course, as it always is and will be with Leonard, no one knows the real truth. There’s a chance he would have signed with the Lakers if the George trade hadn’t happened, and there’s a chance he really wasn’t considering them.
If the truth is the latter and not the former, then it begins to call in question Leonard’s character, as it seems wholly unnecessary for a player of his caliber to keep a team waiting on him if he has no plans of signing with them.
The good news through all of this is that the Lakers have done a wonderful job filling out the roster even after playing that waiting game and that despite not having Leonard, they are still right alongside the Clippers when it comes to championship contention.