Since Kawhi Leonard’s week-long decision to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019 NBA free agency, there are new details emerging about the Los Angeles Lakers.
As Leonard’s camp wanted discretion, no information really leaked from the three teams including the Toronto Raptors.
However, former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson did provide details about his meeting with Leonard’s camp. As a result, a person close to the situation believed Johnson hurt the team’s chances of signing him.
Following Leonard’s introductory press conference, he denied the Johnson rumor impacting his decision, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
Yahoo Sports Exclusive: One-on-one with @LAClippers star Kawhi Leonard on Magic Johnson divulging their chat, how he felt about his plane being tracked in Toronto, on narrative he played the Lakers, Raptors and more. https://t.co/V1e6tw52DR pic.twitter.com/jB157tnEzq
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 25, 2019
In addition, Leonard denied he led the Lakers and Raptors on by waiting nearly week to sign with the Clippers:
“I didn’t lead anyone on,” Leonard told Yahoo Sports. “I took my time in free agency, as I should, to make sure I made the best decision for myself and my family. I feel like some of the media coverage over it made it feel that way, with people saying I’m signing with Toronto 99 percent or I’m going to the Lakers 99 percent. I don’t ever want to have that bad karma come back on me trying to make the Lakers miss out on players they should have gotten or vice-versa with the Raptors.”
As Leonard reportedly ‘would have likely’ signed with the Lakers had it not been for the Paul George trade to the Clippers, all of the parties involved are looking forward to the 2019-20 NBA season. For the first time in league history, both Los Angeles teams are championship contenders.
Labeled as the ‘Battle of Los Angeles,’ the Lakers were in a good position with or without Leonard. With two All-Star players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it was just as important to surround them with the right role players.
Despite waiting for Leonard, general manager Rob Pelinka signed players for below market value and on two-year deals in order to still be players in 2021 NBA free agency.