As Kawhi Watch extends into its fifth day, the options for Leonard seem to have narrowed to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors. On one side, ESPN’s Jalen Rose is stating that he’s “99 percent sure” Leonard will stay with the Raptors. On the other, Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard insists the Lakers are still in the hunt.
One of the rumored shortcomings of heading to Los Angeles is that Leonard would cede his alpha status to LeBron James only weeks after winning his second NBA Finals MVP.
Jay Williams of ESPN addressed the speculation on this morning’s “Get Up,” stating that LeBron would “pass the torch” should the deal come to fruition.
“If you’re LeBron James, you say ‘Look, I’m LeBron James. You’re Kawhi Leonard. You’re the best player in the game. I recognize that in three years from now, I’m going to retire. I’m going to pass the torch. You don’t need to be involved in movies or this L.A. life….but you will have the L.A. Laker moniker for the rest of your career if you want it.’
Here’s the full video of the exchange between Williams, Tim Bontemps and Sean Farnham.
Bontemps made the case for staying in Toronto, stating that the level of success and support Leonard received from Masai Ujiri should be enough to keep him.
“When Kawhi went to Toronto, he didn’t know anything about that organization, didn’t know about Masai Ujiri, didn’t know what they were going to do with him,” Bontemps said. “What do they do? They built a championship roster, they kept him healthy, they put him on a load management plan that he said got him all the way through to the playoffs, got him through the Finals, got him a Finals MVP and got him Toronto’s first-ever title.”
Farnham acknowledged the strength of this case, as both the Lakers and Clippers have question marks. For the Lakers, it’s a new-look roster with recent tumult in the front office. For the Clippers, it’s who can surround Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard Possibly Eliminated Clippers After Kevin Durant Left for Brooklyn
According to our own Jonathan Adams, Kawhi Leonard discussed “joining forces with Kevin Durant on the Los Angeles Clippers.” Former NBA player Kendrick Perkins also noted on The Brian Windhorst Podcast that the duo spoke about teaming up and the Clippers were the “number one priority.”
Durant helped facilitate a sign-and-trade that sent D’Angelo Russell to Golden State, allowing Brooklyn to team him up with Kyrie Irving.
Windhorst’s conversation with Perkins about Leonard’s communication with Durant is detailed below, and seems to identify Durant’s commitment to the Nets as the death blow for the Clippers’ chances.
BW: “One thing that is a little piece of information from the last week. I was told that…I feel confident about this, that Kawhi and Kevin Durant spoke before KD went ahead [and committed to the Nets].”
KP: “They spoke about joining teams, possibly joining together, and I think the Clippers was the number one priority. But I think that it was just a little back and forth.”
BW: “I think KD kinda paused a little bit and was like ‘Hey, let’s consider this for a minute.’ Then he went through with his plan.”
KP: “Yeah, absolutely and that’s exactly how it went.”
BW: “So, that leads me to wonder whether or not Kawhi would like to have another star player with him in Los Angeles with the Clippers.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has stated that Leonard could’ve made his final decision last night. The timeline know shifts to July 4 per his tweet.