The summer of 2019 was all about the pursuit of Kawhi Leonard for the Los Angeles Lakers and the L.A. Clippers. Both teams spent a week holding off all other interested free agents as they awaited a decision from Leonard, who reportedly was considering re-signing with the Toronto Raptors as well.
Jerry West — a lifelong Laker but now member of the Clippers front office — was instrumental in their recruitment of him. Leonard ultimately chose the Clippers, forcing them to trade nearly a decade’s worth of draft picks to acquire Paul George to play alongside him.
This immediately put championship expectations on a franchise that has never been close to that level. Leonard’s first season in L.A. was a bust, as they failed to advance past the second round and drama surrounding preferential treatment marred any hopes the team had of succeeding.
Now, as the team hoped to move past any bad media attention, the Clippers are being accused of — among other things — salary cap circumvention in the signing of Leonard. To add to this, a July 2019 voicemail reportedly left by West to Leonard’s friend Johnny Wilkes has leaked, via TMZ:
“Hey there, this is Jerry calling. I really want to thank you a lot for trying to help. I heard this morning that everyone over in the Lakers camp thinks they’re gonna get him. I just find it hard to believe that he would want to go to that [expletive] show where he would not even be, wouldn’t even get his name in the paper and he wouldn’t be the face of the franchise, that’s for sure. He might be the best player on the team. But hope things are well and again, I really, really appreciate everything you’ve done.”
Remarkably, the voicemail itself likely won’t get the Clippers in trouble. However, it can be used as potential evidence for larger violations of the CBA. The NBA has launched an investigation into the Clippers’ signing of Leonard after Wilkes sued the team earlier this week.
And while it’s purported to be West and he said unflattering things about the Lakers — despite his long and storied history with the franchise — it certainly isn’t affecting them as they celebrate their 17th NBA championship.
Leonard impressed by Talen Horton-Tucker in preseason games
As Leonard tries to focus his attentions on the 2020-21 season, he found himself impressed by the Lakers youngest player, Talen Horton-Tucker.
Lakers veteran Wes Matthews revealed the 20-year-old even caught the eye of Clippers star Kawhi Leonard. “Kawhi was like, ‘Wesley, Talen is 19?’ I’m like, ‘Huh? Nineteen?’ So I asked him and he was like, ‘Yeah, I just turned 20.’ I said, ‘Wow,’” Matthews recalled.
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