- Kawhi Leonard and his camp told NBA teams during free agency not to leak details of their meetings.
- According to a report from The Athletic, some in the NBA world believe that Magic Johnson’s decision to tell the media in June that he had spoken with Leonard and his uncle and adviser, Dennis Robertson, ruined the Los Angeles Lakers’ chances of acquiring the star forward.
- Leonard eventually signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, who operated in silence while trading for Paul George to accompany Leonard.
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Kawhi Leonard’s free-agency process was a bit of a mystery to the larger NBA world, in part because he wanted it that way.
While Leonard met with the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Toronto Raptors, he asked teams not to leak details to media or discuss the meetings, according to reports.
According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Jovan Buha, and Shams Charania, one front-office executive who was involved in the process of free agency described the message from Leonard’s camp as: “It was basically, ‘Look, we would appreciate discretion.’ Which means, ‘Keep your f—ing mouth shut.'”
The same executive told The Athletic that the implication was that leaking details meant, “If you f— this up, you’re done, you’re out.”
During free agency, before Leonard decided to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Leonard’s camp told teams that leaking details would be “imperiling” to their chances of signing the NBA Finals MVP.
“The teams have simply been told this: If information on your presentation gets out, you’re really imperiling your chance to sign Kawhi Leonard,” Wojnarowski said.
Magic Johnson may have violated that request and sank the Lakers chances of landing Leonard.
On June 29, Johnson, who was less than three months removed from abruptly resigning as president of basketball operations of the Lakers, told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Leonard’s camp wanted him to be part of the meetings.
“A friend of mine called and says Kawhi wants to meet with you,” Johnson told ESPN. “I said no problem. I’m available if that’s what this man wants.”
Johnson said the NBA didn’t permit him to be part of official team meetings with free agents.
Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times also reported on June 30 that Johnson said he had spoken with Leonard and Leonard’s uncle, adviser, and confidant, Dennis Robertson.
According to The Athletic, some think Johnson’s actions may have tanked the Lakers chances.
“I truly believe that when Magic started telling the media about the meeting he had with Kawhi and Dennis, that sealed the fate of the Lakers,” a person “involved in the process” told The Athletic. “I think that right there was when Dennis and Kawhi decided we can’t trust the Lakers as an organisation. And that was it.”
While The Athletic reported that Johnson’s actions didn’t solely cost the Lakers the opportunity, it “certainly didn’t help his former employer’s pitch.”
The Athletic also reported that the idea of forming a Big Three on the Lakers alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis didn’t appeal to Leonard.
However, Leonard also wanted the Clippers to find a star teammate for him to play with to lighten the load after he carried the Raptors in the playoffs. The Clippers eventually traded a historic haul for Paul George, who was reportedly being recruited by Leonard and told to request a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Clippers had several ways to appeal to Leonard: a strong culture, a deep roster with the ability to add talent, and proximity to his hometown, to name a few. And, The Athletic reported, the Clippers were also quiet as they went about their business.
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