Amid various reports suggesting that Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard is either planning to re-sign with the team this summer or move to the Los Angeles Clippers, the latest rumors suggest that there might be a chance the two-time Defensive Player of the Year takes his talents instead to his other hometown team.
As quoted by Bleacher Report, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith provided a quick update on Leonard’s situation ahead of the 2019 offseason, suggesting on Wednesday’s edition of SportsCenter that Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has “quietly been about the business of trying to get” Leonard to choose the Lakers over the Clippers in free agency. Leonard, who averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals in 60 games for the Raptors, will be eligible to enter unrestricted free agency this summer if he chooses to opt out of the final year of his current contract.
For most of the 2018-19 NBA season, rumors have gone back and forth regarding Kawhi Leonard’s free agency plans, but few have suggested that the Lakers have a good chance of signing the Southern California native. According to a report from The Inquisitr, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said earlier this week on his podcast that the Raptors have made “pretty good progress” in selling Leonard on a winning culture, thus making it a “serious consideration” for him to re-sign with Toronto.
Meanwhile, Bleacher Report cited a January report from ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, which suggested that the “popular opinion” among NBA executives is that Leonard will end up choosing between staying with the Raptors and signing with the Clippers. This was also hinted at by Smith on Saturday when he said that there’s a “real possibility” of the Clippers making the most of their salary cap space and signing both Leonard and Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant.
Kawhi Leonard in the Raptors Sixers series:
Game 1: 45-11-2, 16/23 FG
Game 2: 35-7-6, 13/24 FG
Game 3: 33-4-3, 13/22 FG
Game 4: 39-14-5, 13/20 FG
— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) May 5, 2019
As for the Lakers, the team has been a long shot in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes for several months, as various reports have stressed that the All-Star forward has a much stronger preference for the crosstown Clippers. Furthermore, a November 2018 report from ESPN quoted Leonard as saying that he “didn’t like the Lakers” while growing up, as he was more of a fan of then-Philadelphia 76ers superstar Allen Iverson.
While there’s a lot that could happen in the coming weeks that could convince Leonard to join the Lakers, Bleacher Report concluded its piece by stressing that the team’s quest to find a second superstar to play alongside James is the “least of [their] problems” at the moment. Most recently, the Lakers have seen their search for a head coach effectively go back to square one after negotiations to hire former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue reportedly broke down over a number of issues, as detailed by Forbes.