We don’t know a lot about when the Los Angeles Lakers meet with Kawhi Leonard, or even who will be there. We know that team governor Jeanie Buss will talk with Leonard and his uncle, and that general manager Rob Pelinka might join her, We also know that Leonard has already had a productive dialogue with Magic Johnson about the future of the team.
Beyond that information, though, we don’t know a whole lot, although now we’re at least aware that those meetings won’t be happening today, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
Kawhi Leonard will not take any meetings with teams today, as he'll ramp up the process over next couple days, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 1, 2019
The Lakers — and Clippers and Raptors — are obviously all in a bit of a holding pattern until Leonard makes his decision. They can’t start using up their cap space until they’re sure of where they stand with arguably the best player in the NBA.
The risk that approach leaves them all with, however, is that the market is moving fast. The rest of the free agency class isn’t just waiting on Leonard, with Jimmy Butler and Al Horford both finding their next destinations shortly after news that Leonard would wait on meetings dropped:
Miami is finalizing a sign-and-trade with Philadelphia to acquire Jimmy Butler, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2019
Five-time All-Star F/C Al Horford has agreed to a four-year, $109M deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, agent Jason Glushon tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2019
Now, that’s obviously worse news for the Clippers than for the Lakers, because Butler appeared to be the last available star they could have recruited to team with Leonard — and Philadelphia was a potential candidate for them to dump Danilo Gallinari’s deal on — but it also removes a backup plan for the Lakers off the board, as they can no longer sign Butler.
And even if we take the optimistic view that this eliminates the Clippers from contention for Leonard, that still leaves the Raptors to beat. It’s unknown what level of emotional attachment Leonard has to, well, really anything, but specifically the Raptors in this case. He did just win a title there and surely sees some appeal in returning to The North to defend his throne, though. Or maybe he doesn’t. I don’t know, and probably very few do, at this point.
Regardless of who is actually in pole position, there are three teams mostly sitting out of free agency so that they can sign one player. When the music stops, one of them will be sitting pretty with their first option, while the other two will be grasping for fallback plans as they head towards the floor. It seems we won’t know who is who for at least another day or two.
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