Kawhi Leonard may never have seriously considered joining the Lakers.
There was “no way” the 28-year-old star was signing with the Lakers “despite speculation they were the front-runners,” according to a report from ESPN ’s The Undefeated , which cites an unidentified league source.
Leonard ended up inking a max deal with the Clippers after they acquired Paul George from the Thunder in exchange for five first-round selections, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari.
The Lakers were pursuing Leonard to pair with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who they added in a blockbuster trade with the Pelicans last month. They went on to sign Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Avery Bradley after missing out on Leonard.
'Changed a lot of lives'
Leonard spent 2018-19 with the Raptors, where he almost single-handedly led the team to the first title in franchise history. "I think you can't blame a guy for wanting to go home," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said last weekend, via ESPN . "That's what he texted me. ... 'I'm going home.' And I just said, 'You've changed a lot of lives, man, by what you've accomplished in Toronto. Mine especially.' And thanked him for what he did, and we'll look to the future, and we'll look to [win a title] again."
Read | 'Can't blame' Leonard for leaving, says Nurse
Leonard averaged 30.5 points in the playoffs, was named the Finals MVP and helped the Raptors avoid elimination by knocking down a crazy bouncing buzzer beater in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the 76ers in the second round. "It's certainly disappointing," Nurse said. "I think, first of all, he's a great person. He was unbelievably fun to coach, just locked in and loaded and ready to go. People would ask me, 'What was it like coaching him?' And I always said the best thing was I got to stand there on the courtside and watch this guy go to work. That was something that I'll never forget.”
The Clippers became the betting favorites to win the 2019-20 championship after landing Leonard.