Did Magic Johnson talk Kawhi Leonard out of the Los Angeles Lakers’ grasp?
Leonard opted not to sign with the Lakers in free agency, instead choosing the Los Angeles Clippers, and it’s possible comments Johnson made about talking with the NBA superstar’s uncle and trusted confidant, Dennis Robertson, before free agency played a role in the decision.
Leonard’s camp had warned teams against leaking information, but Johnson, who resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in late May, seemingly ignored the request in disclosing details of their conversation, perhaps preventing his former employer from signing the reigning NBA Finals MVP.
“I truly believe that when Magic started telling the media about the meeting he had with Kawhi and Dennis, that sealed the fate of the Lakers,” a person involved in the process told The Athletic’s Jovan Buha and Sam Amick. “I think that right there was when Dennis and Kawhi decided we can’t trust the Lakers as an organization. And that was it. I think that was it for them.”
FOX Sports personality Cris Carter claimed earlier this month Johnson’s leak “didn’t help” the Lakers’ pursuit of Leonard, and The Athletic’s report dovetails with Carter’s assertion. It was a stunning turn of events, as the Lakers and Toronto Raptors were considered the favorites to sign Leonard in free agency.
Leonard ultimately joined the Clippers on a reported four-year, $142M maximum contract, as the team heeded his other major wish — to land another superstar to compete for championships alongside — by acquiring Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder via trade.
The Clippers’ twin moves initially sent shock waves around the NBA. Perhaps now that time has passed and the frenzy has subsided, the Clippers’ successful methods might teach Johnson a valuable lesson about discretion.
Thumbnail photo via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images