The Los Angeles Lakers have apparently decided to play a slow game on Kawhi Leonard, and it may end up costing them.
The most recent NBA Finals MVP was among a very small group of top free agents not to announce their signing within minutes of the free agency period starting on Sunday evening. Reports indicated that Leonard wanted to take his time with the decision, spreading out team meetings over the course of the week. His first visit appears to be with the Lakers, but it’s not clear if the team will seal the deal before he listens to other pitches.
According to The Big Lead, the Lakers may not have the luxury of waiting. The report noted that the Lakers have just four players under contract for the next season and have let a number of potentially important free agents pass by while apparently waiting on Leonard’s decision.
Should Kawhi Leonard end up picking a different team or deciding to stay with the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers may have played themselves out of the chance of contending in a Western Conference that appears to be opening up.
“While they’ve been waiting for Leonard to make up his mind, the Lakers have watched some of their other targets get snapped up. Seth Curry, Patrick Beverley, D’Angelo Russell and Reggie Bullock have all inked deals with other teams while LA stood pat and waited,” the report noted. “Any combination of those players would have been a great fit for a team centered on James and Davis. Instead, the Lakers passed on getting involved and waited.”
According to Silver Screen and Roll, the Lakers have already been in negotiations with Kawhi Leonard and have listened to some of his requests, including wanting his own medical staff and for the Lakers to hire his uncle/adviser. As the report noted, Leonard also had some probing questions for the Lakers, including inquiring about whether the Lakers had tried to trade for him while he was on the San Antonio Spurs (the Lakers did, apparently, but the Spurs asked for an especially high price to trade him to an intra-conference rival).
The Lakers have max money and are pursuing Kawhi Leonard right now because Anthony Davis chose to waive his $4 million trade kicker. “Money comes and goes, your legacy is forever," Davis told me. "I think that’s way more valuable than any monetary value.” https://t.co/l2h4K1VcES— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 1, 2019
It is not clear exactly when Kawhi Leonard plans to make his free agency decision or whether the Los Angeles Lakers are still considered to be in the lead. Many believe it is unlikely that the Lakers would let Leonard slip away, especially after Anthony Davis waived his $4 million trade kicker to allow the Lakers to go after him.