The Toronto Raptors, with Kawhi Leonard as their best player, are one win away from their first NBA championship in franchise history. Whether the Raptors win or lose the championship, Leonard is set to become a free agent this summer.
For the last couple of years, it’s been assumed that the Los Angeles teams have an inside track at getting the California native to sign once he gets to free agency. But the Raptors’ deep run has some around the league wondering if Leonard might decide to remain in Toronto. And reports now say that one of those Los Angeles teams is considering life without a Kawhi signing.
Per The Athletic, which cited league sources, while the Los Angeles Clippers have been confident all year that they can convince Leonard to sign, and are pretty sure Leonard will at least “answer the phone” when free agency begins June 30, “the Clippers spend most of their time in meetings preparing for scenarios in which [Leonard] doesn’t come to L.A.”
The Clippers were among the teams to which Leonard reportedly suggested as a trade destination when he requested a trade from his former team, the San Antonio Spurs, last summer. The Raptors ended up completing the trade for the star player in July, under the scenario that they could convince him to stay in Toronto.
Last month, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said on a televised pregame show that Leonard reminded him of Michael Jordan, and that comment, along with other instances throughout the season, led to a $50,000 tampering fine from the league office that was levied on the Clippers organization.
While the Clippers and Raptors are considered the primary favorites to land Leonard this offseason, other teams have been mentioned. The New York Knicks are “confident” that they will at least land a meeting with Leonard, per a New York Post report this week, although they’re expected to pursue Kevin Durant most aggressively this offseason.
Leonard has given little indication from his public comments about what his intentions are after the season, whether or not the Raptors win the championship.
“I’m not even thinking about signing or what team I’m gonna go to, free agency, none of that. I’m just focused on what’s in front of me right now. And then, you know, once it’s over then I’ll revisit everything,” Leonard told ESPN in an interview.
The NBA Finals continue with Game 5 Monday night in Toronto, with the Raptors holding a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors.