After helping the Toronto Raptors win their first NBA championship title, reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard became one of the most coveted superstars in the 2019 NBA free agency. Before he officially signed a contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, Leonard had been linked to multiple NBA teams, including the New York Knicks, who entered the 2019 NBA offseason with enough salary cap space for two max free agents. However, during that time, reports circulated that the Knicks canceled their scheduled meeting with Leonard, breaking the hearts of fans who were hoping that a legitimate NBA superstar would finally come to New York.
After the Clippers suffered a massive defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies, Leonard was asked if there really was a scheduled meeting between his camp and the Knicks last summer.
“Not that I was aware of,” Leonard said, as quoted by Ian Begley of SportsNet New York.
The main reason the Knicks were emerging as a favorite landing spot for Leonard in the 2019 NBA free agency was because one of their front office executives has a good relationship with Kawhi’s uncle, Dennis Robertson. However, in his recent interview, Leonard made it clear that he “never” considered joining the Knicks last summer.
“I never said I was considering going to the Knicks. Everybody knew where I wanted to go once I requested the trade so I don’t know where that came from,” Leonard said.
What Leonard said is true. When the San Antonio Spurs started listening to trade offers for him in the summer of 2018, Leonard had informed interested teams that he would only be signing with his hometown team when he became an unrestricted free agent. Even if he changed his mind about playing for one of the two Los Angeles teams, it remains a big question mark if Leonard would be interested in being a member of the Knicks.
Aside from the drama surrounding the team, the Knicks’ roster mostly consists of inexperienced players. Though he succeeded in bringing home the first Larry O’Brien Trophy to Toronto, even a player of Leonard’s caliber may have a hard time helping the Knicks end their playoff drought. The Knicks had the opportunity to make themselves a more attractive destination for superstars when the New Orleans Pelicans started engaging in a trade negotiation involving Anthony Davis last summer.
However, despite being considered as one of Davis’ preferred landing spots, the Knicks decided not to compete with the Lakers’ offer to the Pelicans. In addition to Leonard, the Knicks were also snubbed by two other big names in the 2019 NBA free agency, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who both decided to go to the other team situated in New York, the Brooklyn Nets.