Through all of the drama to begin the 2019 NBA offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers still traded for Anthony Davis and created a max-contract slot to sign a third All-Star player.
Instead of a historic Big 3 on the Lakers, Leonard’s decision created parity in the league for the first time in five seasons as the Golden State Warriors are no longer the favorites.
As all of the attention is on the 2019-20 NBA season now, head coach Doc Rivers was informed Leonard was signing with either the Lakers or Toronto Raptors at one point, according to Arash Markazi of Los Angeles Times:
“The day of the trade at 12 noon the deal was off,” Rivers said. “I was at home in Malibu and Lawrence called me and told me, ‘It looks like he’s either going to Toronto or the Lakers.’ The Lakers part just threw me over. I told him that can’t happen. … I remember I kept telling him, ‘We cannot allow that to happen!’
Rivers also told owner Steve Ballmer they may have to move to Seattle if Leonard did end up signing with the Lakers:
“I actually told Steve jokingly that if that happens, we’re moving the team to Seattle. It was a joke, but I was actually serious about it. I really believed that.”
During Leonard’s week-long decision, the Lakers were viewed as the favorites as other All-Star players either re-signed or signed elsewhere. However, the Clippers somehow traded for George and it was enough for Leonard.
While Leonard took a lot of time compared to other All-Star players, the Lakers still signed good role players around Davis and LeBron James for near or below market value.
As the Lakers-Clippers will play on Opening Night and Christmas Day, they are viewed as the favorites to win the 2020 NBA Finals among 7-8 championship contenders.
And for the first time in league history, both Los Angeles teams are expected to win a lot of games and make deep playoff runs, but the reality is the Lakers run the city.
While the media and Clippers fans will attempt to turn this into a rivalry, the Lakers are focused on themselves as they are in pursuit of their first championship since 2010.