The winds of change really seem to be shifting, as over the last 24 to 48 hours, more and more signs are pointing towards Kawhi Leonard joining the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
First, the Lakers freed up max cap space, which was soon followed by news that Leonard would grant the Lakers a meeting once free agency began. Then, word came down that he specifically wanted to speak to Magic Johnson, and that LeBron James and Anthony Davis would recruit Leonard as well.
Finally, later Friday night, the Lakers’ title odds started moving up, quickly followed by the latest report from Marc Stein of The New York Times, who made it sounds like many around the league are starting to think Leonard may be Lakers bound as well:
How high is the bar for the Clippers now? They might not only have to beat out Toronto … they might have to convince Kevin Durant to choose the Clippers to then convince Kawhi to choose the Clippers over the Lakers. League sources insist that the Laker threat is that significant— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 29, 2019
This doesn’t feel quite as inevitable as LeBron James joining on did at the same time last year, but it’s starting to get to nearly that point. There is still a long way to go, but that could be as many as three separate meetings given that Johnson can’t officially participate in the Lakers’ efforts, and neither can Davis because he’s still technically a Pelican for a few more days.
Here’s a quick breakdown: Magic (no longer employed by the Lakers) and Anthony Davis (not yet a Laker) can call, meet, text, FT with Kawhi or other FAs on their own. They just can’t formally represent or be part of Lakers meeting.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 29, 2019
Would Leonard really put all those parties through all that if he wasn’t already starting to lean towards donning forum blue and gold next season? That would seem to be a tremendous waste of everyone’s time if Leonard wasn’t actually going to commit.
Now maybe he just wants information from all of those parties to do due diligence, but this increasingly feels less like that, and more like narrative building that would allow his camp to show the Toronto Raptors and their fans the type of Herculean effort it took from the Lakers’ delegation to get Leonard to leave the team he just won a title with.
The Lakers have been confident for quite some time that they have a real chance with Leonard, and these last few days have only continued to justify that self belief. Now, like with James last year, and with Davis on the trade market, we get to see if they can close the deal. As the former two players’ presence on the roster emphasizes, the Lakers have gotten pretty good at the closing part of this whole thing. Now they just have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on one more deal, and then they’ll have brought together the greatest big three ever assembled. It will be fascinating to watch if they can actually do so, and justify this huge shift in hype over the last few days.
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