Kawhi Leonard’s free agency was one of the biggest stories during the NBA offseason and arguably the most dramatic of all. With plenty of reports saying different things every single day, it was a total mystery which team he was going to pick as his next destination. Eventually, he decided to return to Los Angeles, but to play with the Los Angeles Clippers instead of the Lakers.
After that, there have been even more reports suggesting that both the Lakers and the Toronto Raptors are mad at Kawhi for the way he managed his free agency, with some claiming he or his camp ‘led on’ teams during the recruitment process. During his introductory press conference with the Clippers, Leonard discussed those reports with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
“I didn’t lead anyone on,” Leonard said. “I took my time in free agency, as I should, to make sure I made the best decision for myself and my family. I feel like some of the media coverage over it made it feel that way, with people saying I’m signing with Toronto 99 percent or I’m going to the Lakers 99 percent. I don’t ever want to have that bad karma come back on me trying to make the Lakers miss out on players they should have gotten or vice-versa with the Raptors.”
Even though he was great with Toronto, leaving the team as probably the most important player in their history, Leonard always had in mind that he wanted to return home. Both the Lakers and Clippers represented that opportunity but his childhood fandom for either team played no role in his decision.
“Y’all kept saying that me and Paul’s favorite team growing up was the Lakers. I’m not going to say [Yahoo Sports], but whatever media outlet was out there saying that Kawhi prefers the Lakers over the Clippers, or Paul loves the Lakers, was wrong,” Leonard said. “I wasn’t a fan of the Lakers growing up. Not saying that’s why I didn’t choose them, but that’s not what it is. I wasn’t a fan of them, and [Paul] just told you guys he was a Clippers fan.”
Finally, he stated that any team that wanted him could have just avoided the waiting and put their attention in a different free agent.
“If they didn’t want to wait for me, they didn’t have to,” Leonard said. “They had a big opportunity to sign me. [The Lakers] were close, but I ended up on the other side.”
At the end of the day, the Klaw chose what he believed what the best for him and his career. Plenty of fans think he did the right thing by signing with the Clippers, as he brought balance to the league after several years.