If you thought we were done talking about the bizarre free agency courtship between Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers, Clippers and Raptors, well, guess again, because it looks like details aren’t done coming to light.
In a sprawling story that is worth reading in its entirety, Sam Amick of The Athletic detailed — among other things — how the Lakers were briefly confident that they’d sign Leonard, where that confidence came from, how Magic Johnson did or didn’t affect the Lakers’ chances and more.
Even amidst all that, though, the most notable news to surface was that Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson, reportedly asked the Lakers and other teams for benefits that would not be allowed under the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement. Lakers governor Jeanie Buss reportedly rebuffed those requests, and Leonard signed with the Clippers, which raises... interesting... questions (via The Athletic, emphasis mine):
The stories about Robertson’s wish list made their way to the league office soon after Leonard made his decision, with concerned parties reporting that Leonard’s uncle had asked pursuing teams for much, much more than a max contract (Kawhi ultimately signed a three-year, $103 million deal with the Clippers).
Oh? How much more?
Sources say the league was told that Robertson asked team officials for part ownership of the team, a private plane that would be available at all times, a house and — last but certainly not least — a guaranteed amount of off-court endorsement money that they could expect if Leonard played for their team. All of those items, to be clear, would fall well outside the confines of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Wait, so he actually asked the Lakers for this?
A source with knowledge of the Kawhi-Lakers talks said Robertson made those requests repeatedly to owner Jeanie Buss over the course of three phone calls that spanned several days, and that she made it clear that such perks were illegal and would not be considered. There was even a question raised by Robertson about why Lakers legend Magic Johnson had been given a small piece of Lakers ownership so many years ago, with Buss explaining that the two situations couldn’t have been more different – even beyond the fact that one was legal and the other was not.
Well then. That’s... a pretty big allegation! And one that, as noted before, raises a lot of questions.
Now, this is where we have to note that Amick reports “no evidence was found indicating that the Clippers had granted any of the lavish requests,” but still, the fact that they were reportedly asked for, denied, and that Leonard then signed with a different team is enough information to raise some eyebrows, and so it’s no surprise that the league took a look at this.
Still, they reportedly found nothing, and beyond sour grapes from losing out on a good player who would have made the team better, this probably doesn’t matter a whole lot anymore. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been great on their own, and while Leonard likely would have made this team borderline-unstoppable, he ultimately went a different way, and the saga is over now.
And from the way the Lakers were seemingly somewhat led on to wait longer for Leonard and the free agency opportunities that cost them, it’s no surprise that the team is seemingly miffed about all this, but eventually everyone just has to move on and make due with what they have. And with LeBron James reportedly likely to play against the Clippers in what might be the biggest test of the Lakers’ young season so far, we’ll get our best look yet at which side ultimately ended up on top after the Lakers-Leonard union fell apart at the altar in July. This just adds another level of intrigue to what should be an incredible game on Christmas Day.