Following three team meetings in 2019 NBA free agency, Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers over the Los Angeles Lakers after taking nearly a week to decide.
As the Clippers were viewed as the frontrunner for Leonard during the 2018-19 NBA season, it appeared the Lakers had momentum with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
However, with Leonard recruiting Paul George, the Clippers ultimately were able to trade for him from the Oklahoma City Thunder and secured the former’s commitment.
While the Lakers have moved forward, there are new details about their meeting with Leonard to begin free agency, according to Tania Ganguli of Los Angeles Times:
Where in years past the Lakers had tried to woo free agents with the prospect of stardom and off-court fame, the Lakers knew that wouldn’t work with Kawhi Leonard. They stuck to basketball in that hotel meeting room, trying to sell Leonard on the idea that he could win championships with superstar teammates James and Davis. The meeting lasted two hours.
As Leonard did not say much, uncle Dennis Robertson had some questions but never brought up Magic Johnson’s recent comments about general manager Rob Pelinka:
Famously soft-spoken, Leonard didn’t say much. His uncle had questions, but Johnson’s comments about Pelinka never came up, according to a person briefed on the meeting. Leonard’s camp came away feeling that the Lakers conducted themselves professionally throughout the process.
As three teams recruited Leonard, he was recruiting Paul George.
Since the Clippers reportedly feared Leonard was ‘prepared’ to sign with the Lakers soon, they gave up numerous draft picks in order to successfully pair George with him.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they could not have pursued George after trading the young core except for Kyle Kuzma and numerous draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans.
While the Lakers signing Leonard would have created the most talented Big 3 in league history, Pelinka has done a solid job of surrounding James and Davis with some talented players after waiting for nearly a week.
For the first time in five seasons, the Golden State Warriors are not favored to win it all in the 2020 NBA Finals and there is parity due to Leonard’s surprising decision now.