Lakers May Be Slipping In Battle For Kawhi Leonard

Playing in front of Kawhi Leonard Sunday night, the Lakers didn’t make a strong case to attract the impending free agent, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Leonard sat out the game with a sore left foot, but watched his Raptors teammates take an early 41-10 lead on the way to a comfortable victory.

A Southern California native, Leonard has reportedly expressed a desire to return to the West Coast once he opts out of his contract next summer. However, there has been talk that he prefers the Clippers, where he could be the top star, rather than joining the Lakers and serving as a sidekick to LeBron James.

Leonard has been guarded in his public statements, but he did mention the Lakers in a weekend interview, saying he wasn’t a fan of the team while growing up.

“I wasn’t at all,” he said. “My family was, but I wasn’t. I liked Allen Iverson, I was an A.I. fan, so I didn’t like the Lakers.”

That statement could be interpreted as bad new for the Lakers, who will be in the market for a second star to team with James. At one time, they were hoping Paul George would be headed to L.A., but he was traded to the Thunder and opted to re-sign there. According to Bontemps, the Raptors are confident they can repeat that scenario with Leonard.

At 9-1, Toronto is tied with Golden State for the league’s best record. The team is two-deep at every position and has plenty of talent for first-year coach Nick Nurse to adjust the lineup to fit the opponent. Raptors officials believe a full season of success will encourage Leonard to re-sign with the organization, which will have the Bird rights advantages of being able to offer him a longer contract and larger raises than anyone else.

Bontemps envisions a sales pitch where team president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster emphasize the advantages of playing with a young roster that can be an Eastern Conference contender for several years, along with a rabid fan base that has already welcomed Leonard as a hero. It’s still uncertain whether that will be enough, but Toronto’s plans for keeping Leonard couldn’t be working out any better.

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44 thoughts on “Lakers May Be Slipping In Battle For Kawhi Leonard

    • x%sure

      Sure was. Direct quotes from Kawhi about his direction are rare. We were led to believe he had to have the Lakers. Wrong!

      • x%sure

        The players (perhaps) avoiding him are not interested in his or anyone else’s leadership. They want to be the leader, not James. I suspect you are hiding the real reason for your dislike.

  1. Toronto is doing all the right things. It’s about winning and Kawhi’s health.

    • Toronto having the Lakers down by 25 at the end of the 1st quarter is a new record for the Lakers. Ramona Shelbourne of ESPN has said that Kawhi has the Clippers 1st on his list, the Raptors 2nd, and the Lakers 3rd.

  2. Dionis

    Nurse has absolutely revitalized that offense from the starting 5 to the bench. Pascal Siakam is an absolute beast and dunked all over LeBron’s face last night. Kawhi isn’t leaving Toronto, he’s got two defensive monsters in OG and Pascal there along with himself.

    • Toronto always does great in the regular season. It’s the playoffs where they suck

      • C-Daddy

        Those past performances aren’t relevant anymore. Completely different team with Kawhi, Danny Green, and Nurse as coach.

        • Danny Green lol.

          Nurse was there last year.

          Will see what Kawhi can do carrying a team in the playoffs this year. Hope he does well. Actually pulling for the Raptors because they’ve been so disappointing in the playoffs for five six years now.

          • C-Daddy

            The playoff failings were very much the failings of Dwane Casey and DeMar. I think most Raptors fans would agree with me that this year feels very different.

            • Yes I would agree with that. They had to break away from this five year cycle and get rid of one of those high-priced Stars. Getting Kawhi back was very fortunate and good for the Raptors.

              I’m hoping you’re right and this year is different. Would be great to see them knock off the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

  3. antsmith7

    Kawhi isn’t going to the Lakers. He’ll either stay in Toronto or go to the Clippers.

    • The Clippers have absolutely nothing to offer a free agent.

      Lakers have young guys and a superstar. Plus the glitz glamour history of being the city’s number one NBA team. Don’t worry Lakers he still coming.

      The Clippers are still the Clippers LOL.

      • politicsNbaseball

        As someone who went to high school with Kawhi (not saying I knew him) and grew up in the same area not everyone there loves the lakers. He obviously doesn’t care about the glitz and glamour as he has stated but yeah you know better than him

        • Give me an alternative. Don’t just tell me I’m wrong. Where is he going?

          I’m 5 minutes from MLK High School. Where do you play ball on the weekends? Let’s go

          • politicsNbaseball

            Nice I used to be in Orangecrest, but I’ve been out of California for awhile. I’m thinking he stays in Toronto, I’m not buying the clipper rumors.

            It just seems like some players don’t want to play with Lebron and he’s one of them

      • ColossusOfClout

        No way Kawhi goes to the Lakers. To put up with narcissists Lebron and Magic? I don’t think so. He’s blue collar not glitz and glamor.

  4. bowserhound

    Great news for Laker fans! Don’t want him on this team. Get a shooter and wait for AD.

    • Better news. To match AD’s salary they’ll have to use Ingram, Hart, Lonzo, and Kuzma. To get him in free agency, they won’t have the cap space in 2 years.

  5. There’s only team that’s almost certainly going to be in the running: Toronto. You don’t go to war with guys for 82 games plus the playoffs and then just lightly walk away at the end of the year without a basketball reason. That binding process hasn’t even really begun yet.

    • Lol DXC !!!!!!

      You ever heard of the San Antonio Spurs? Kawhi is obviously not that kind of a guy. He’ll Skip town and leave you hanging in a heartbeat. Jimmy Butler like.

      • He had an issue with team management. That’s not walking away lightly, but for (what in his mind anyway) was good reason. Are you saying Toronto won’t be in the mix for him? If you are, then educate yourself.

        Very few max guys move teams, at all, and almost none that get traded with a year or so of becoming a FA if offered by their new team. Bringing up Butler is the LOL. He was NOT able to get a max offer from Minn (in fact, he was told he wasn’t getting one). Get it, he disproves any point you were trying to make. OK – now make your point – name some guys who walked after a relatively recent trade when the team they were traded to offered a max deal?

        • It happens often enough and I don’t think Kawhi Leonard signs the max deal in Toronto.

          I still think he’s Laker bound. If he was in it for the money and Max he might not have left San Antonio.

          Guys can get pretty good contracts when they change teams and then get the max for their new team that they prefer.

          Paul George left Indiana, LeBron left Cleveland once and then left Miami later, then left Cleveland again, Gordon Hayward left Utah, Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland, Kevin Durant left OKC, Chris Bosh left Toronto, some of these guys were sign-and-trade so their old team could get at least a little something back… it happens often enough.

          • I think my examples are not exactly what you’re looking for, but they are guys who are offered Max money but decide to leave. That’s what I mean about Kawhi Leonard and Toronto they will offer him Max money but he will leave. That’s my point. Might not be what you’re looking for.

            • There was no free agency at the time. He was by far the best player in basketball, though, so critical to the league that they convinced the Bucks to accommodate him. Knicks were actually his first choice (but, even then, they didn’t have the trade assets).

          • Certainly, if you’re just talking about max FA guys snubbing their existing teams’ max offer and going elsewhere, then, yes, that happens – although not so frequently there either (1-2 guys a year maybe).

            But I was talking about guys who were recently traded supposedly as rentals who then spurn a max offer from the team that acquired him to sign elsewhere. This “rental fear” scenario (of what do you pay to rent a max guy) is discussed all over on sites and networks with every max guy who’s ever traded, yet almost no “renter” really losses.

            I can think of one. Dwight Howard. Traded to the Lakers as a rental and snubbed their max offer for Houston’s. The next group consists of KI (two year rental), KL and maybe Bulter (not with Minn, because they didn’t offer him, but the team he’s traded to – say, Houston offers max, but he decides to go elsewhere as some Rockets fans fear). It will happen again, but it shouldn’t be expected.

          • Butler clearly doesn’t know how to be a teammate. But has he been disloyal to an organization? This is the first time he’s requested a trade and that’s after Minn said they weren’t going to offer him a max deal. He didn’t pull a KL or KI and threaten to not show up.

    • Perhaps not because there is mid-season trades, we’ve got the trading deadline after the All-Star break, and guys get bought out so they can be added to playoff rosters.

      All kinds of this stuff happens during the season so don’t wait till the summer. Not saying kawhai’s getting traded but you really never know. Nobody wants to be left hanging with no assets if they feel a guy is leaving for nothing.

        • Yes, unless they figure out he’s not staying. They’ll be in daily contact with him and his Persona and get a feel. I know you’re probably right 95% but it hurts to see a guy walk for nothing.

  6. Luckylefty2

    Kawhi doesn’t want to play with lebron. Lebron purposely went to LA, so it looks like other superstars followed him to play with him.

    • Probably not for a long long time. Look where they were before.

      Last five years they’d be great in the regular season then not make it to the finals. This is a great deal for them even if Kawhi Leonard walks this summer.

      They break their five year cycle and get rid of a huge long-term contract in DeRrozin. It’s win-win even if Leonard walks.

      All I’m saying is if they know he’s leaving there’s a slight 5% chance they trade him at the deadline.

      95% they’ll play it out and watch him walk and be sad… but it was worth it.

    • It’s actually an exciting time to be a raptor fan. New coach, they’re winning, bringing a star player, the incumbent guys are playing very well, Lowry, Ibaka, things are looking good. You roll the dice sometimes.

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