Calling the Los Angeles Clippers' reported interest in pending free agent Kawhi Leonard an "open secret" would be an insult to secrets.
Coach Doc Rivers was fined by the NBA for comparing Leonard to Michael Jordan on television last month, and the Clippers reportedly looked into buying the rights to Leonard's logo from Nike as part of their free agency pitch. They even hired Lee Jenkins, a former reporter whom many would argue wrote the definitive Kawhi Leonard feature story at Sports Illustrated, as their executive director of research and identity.
So when two digital billboards popped up in Los Angeles, pitching the Southern California-born-and-raised superstar on joining LA's other team, it would have been fair to assume the Clippers put up the ads themselves. But ESPN, citing a Clippers source speaking with reporter Ohm Youngmisuk, reported Monday that "the Clippers knew nothing" about the billboards.
Free agency around the corner? Must be billboard season in LA. pic.twitter.com/2MAVZ8Yvwx— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) June 24, 2019
On Sunday, Yahoo's Chris Haynes reported that Leonard would become a free agent and decline his player option with the Raptors for next season. But, Haynes reported that Leonard is "seriously considering" re-signing in Toronto. The Warriors have to hope that's the case, considering Leonard just showed them what he can do at the peak of his powers.
Leonard and the Raptors ended the Warriors' season with a six-game NBA Finals win. The 27-year-old averaged 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game during The Finals, winning his second Finals MVP award moments after closing down Oracle Arena for good.
Whether or not Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant return healthy -- or return at all -- next season, the Warriors would have (at least) four annual reminders of Leonard's Finals performance if he joins the Clippers. That's surely exactly what whomever paid for the billboards wants to see.