Report: Lakers feel they got played in Kawhi Leonard pursuit
The Raptors reportedly felt Kawhi Leonard’s advisor and uncle, Dennis Robertson, made unreasonable requests of them before Leonard signed with the Clippers.
The Lakers, the other team that waited for and missed out on Leonard, also apparently has misgivings about the process.
The implication: Leonard knew all along wasn’t signing with the Lakers, waited a week into free agency so other top free agents would commit elsewhere then announced his decision just to sabotage the Lakers.
I don’t think Leonard did that. That’d be so calculating and sinister.
But I don’t know. We really don’t have much insight into how the famously secretive Leonard operates. I can’t rule it out.
Also, if Leonard did execute a devious plan to spite the Lakers, it’d look a lot like his actual free agency went.
Of course, nobody forced the Lakers to wait a week for Leonard. There had been longstanding reports Leonard didn’t want to play with LeBron James. The Lakers could have followed the Knicks model of dropping the Leonard pursuit to sign other players.
This is the calculus small-market teams must do frequently. They often bow out of star races, lacking confidence about succeeding.
The Lakers (often incorrectly) believe they can get anyone.
In this case, they were correct to chase Leonard until the end. He’s that big of a prize. Leonard is arguably the NBA’s best player. He can transform any franchise. The Lakers could also offer Leonard his desired Southern California locale and an opportunity to inform an incredible top trio with LeBron and Anthony Davis. For better or worse, that differentiated the Lakers from the Clippers.
The plan just didn’t work. Getting to the Clippers was clearly Leonard’s priority. He convinced George to join him, even moving a meeting with the Lakers so he could meet nearby with George unseen. That probably adds to the Lakers’ suspicion.
I don’t mind the Lakers venting. It must have been frustrating to miss out on Leonard.
Most importantly, they took care of business in the aftermath. The Lakers signed some good role players, chiefly Danny Green.
Their roster would likely look better now if they never pursued Leonard. But that opportunity cost was absolutely worth the potential upside of landing Leonard.