Coming off a championship with the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard considered remaining with the franchise, although he was always determined to return home. The Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of Anthony Davis in the offseason increased their odds at signing Leonard. While the interest was mutual between the two sides, Leonard ended up forming a new partnership with Paul George for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Leonard took his time during the free agency process with his decision, coming later than anticipated. After meeting with representatives from all three teams, there was no clear favorite in the race, but many rumors indicated that the Lakers had made a good impression. Davis wasn’t involved in the recruitment process, but he was also optimistic about the Lakers’ chances of landing the 2019 NBA Finals MVP.
“I don’t really know Kawhi like that—I don’t think no one really knows Kawhi like that. But obviously we were hopeful. I definitely thought that it was a possibility that we could get him… I’m not going to be a haggling guy. Especially when he came and said he didn’t really like the media [attention] and people pressuring him. But I think there was a time where all of us felt like we were really, really close to getting Kawhi,” said Davis, per Bleacher Report.
With a Big Three of James, Davis, and Leonard, the Lakers would have undoubtedly been the favorites to win it all this year. Things panned out differently with Leonard joining the Clippers on a three-year deal, and he is now set to battle the Lakers throughout the season.
It’s been reported that the Lakers were Leonard’s preferred destination when he was still a member of the San Antonio Spurs, but the two sides couldn’t find an agreement. Once the Lakers signed James in the summer of 2018, there were rumors suggesting that Leonard’s interest had decreased as he didn’t want to be a second fiddle star, per NBC Sports.
The Lakers remained in the running for Leonard, but the momentum shifted in the Clippers’ favor. Despite missing out on Leonard in the NBA free agency, the Lakers are still expected to turn into a contender thanks to their new duo. Following a disappointing year, there were concerns regarding the team’s roster as many players didn’t perform up to expectations. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, James approves of the new-look Lakers, and he appears to have high hopes for the future.