The Los Angeles Lakers may be the new frontrunner to land Kawhi Leonard as free agency starts.
On Sunday, Chris Broussard of Fox Sports indicated that the Lakers are “in the lead” to land Kawhi, though it was not clear just how much an advantage they might have over the other contenders. The Lakers have been among the most aggressive teams this offseason, having already landed Anthony Davis in a long-anticipated trade, and are now rumored to be turning their sights to other star players who will round out the team.
Kawhi Leonard does not appear to be rushing his decision on where to play next season. NFL star-turned-analyst Cris Carter wrote on Twitter that the NBA All-Star is spacing out his meetings with teams, so he will not be among the stars to announce deals within hours of free agency starting on Sunday evening.
“As of right now, Kawhi will meet with Clippers and Lakers on Monday/Tuesday,” Carter wrote. “Knicks front office will travel to Southern California with the plan to meet early next week. Raptors have earned the right to have the final meeting.”
As Forbes noted, the Lakers still have $32 million to sign a max free agent after Davis waived his $4 million trade kicker and the team dumped the salaries of Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and Jemerrio Jones in a trade to the Wizards.
For fans who have been reading the tea leaves (which in this case means following Kawhi’s family on social media), there have already been hints that he’s been planning to join the Lakers. His sister, Meisha Slayton, recently liked an Instagram poll asking whether Kawhi should join the Lakers next.
A screenshot of the Instagram post was shared on Imgur and sparked some interest among Lakers fans, and this was followed days later when Kawhi’s cousin was broadcasting a video on Instagram Live and was asked by several people if Kawhi would be joining the Lakers.
“Kawhi on the way,” his cousin answered.
— Complex (@Complex) June 30, 2019
As CBS Sports noted on the eve of NBA free agency, the Lakers were extremely confident that they would be able to land Kawhi Leonard and that both LeBron James and Anthony Davis planned to be an active part of the pitch to bring him to Los Angeles. But with his meetings spread out over the course of the upcoming week, Leonard has given no indication of when he actually plans to make his final decision on where he will be playing for the next season and beyond.