The Toronto Raptors are already doing everything they can to prevent Kawhi Leonard from leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers in unrestricted free agency. According to a report by Ian Begley of ESPN, the Raptors have added former San Antonio Spurs staffer and close friend of Leonard, Jeremy Castleberry, to Nick Nurse’s coaching staff.
Castleberry has known Leonard for nearly a decade, having played basketball with the former Defensive Player of the Year at Martin Luther King High in Riverside and at San Diego State University. Most recently, Castleberry worked in video and player development with the Spurs, where Leonard spent the first seven years of his NBA career.
Wherever Leonard has gone, Castleberry has followed and it seems as though Leonard likes it that way. But will that be enough to keep Leonard in Toronto next summer?
The whole reason Leonard forced a trade out of San Antonio in the first place is because he reportedly wanted to play in Los Angeles, with the Lakers as his preferred team. While Leonard is going into the season with an “open mind,” the Lakers or the Clippers are still favorites to land the 27-year-old when he hits unrestricted free agency next summer, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
However, it’s worth noting that the same things were said about Paul George before he re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder on a four-year, max deal. For a time, it looked like a near guarantee George was going to sign a long-term deal with his hometown Lakers.
The Lakers didn’t come up completely empty handed in free agency, though. Just hours after George announced he was returning to OKC, the front office reached an agreement with LeBron James on a contract worth $153.3 million over four years. As far as consolation prizes go, one could do worse.
Now James will be the recruiter-in-chief for free agents like Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson next summer. Get any of those guys in a room with James, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, and I like the Lakers’ chances.
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