Stephen A. Smith: LeBron James 'Quietly' Recruiting Kawhi Leonard to LakersMay 8, 2019
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN reported on SportsCenter Wednesday that LeBron James "has quietly been about the business of trying to get Kawhi Leonard to come to the Los Angeles Lakers instead of the Los Angeles Clippers."
Leonard averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals for the 58-24 Raptors, who currently lead the Philadelphia 76ers 3-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The 27-year-old can opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Leonard, who is originally from Southern California, has been heavily rumored to either return closer to home or stay in Toronto. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Monday (h/t Johnny Ledesma) that he thinks the decision is down to the Clippers and Raptors.
That is consistent with a Jan. 3 report from ESPN's Tim Bontemps, who wrote that "the popular opinion among league executives six months before Leonard makes his decision is that he'll choose between the Raptors and the Clippers."
Smith also said on Saturday that he thinks there is a "real possibility" Leonard and Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant will be Clippers next year.
The Lakers have not been in the picture much. Of note, Michael C. Wright of ESPN spoke on Brian Windhorst's podcast in mid-March and speculated that he didn't think Leonard wanted to wear the Purple and Gold.
"I do not," Wright said. "That's just what I've been told. It's what I've been told going back to last summer. I don't see that as something that's happening. I think he goes to the Clippers."
Perhaps James can convince Leonard otherwise, but the Lakers have far bigger problems right now. Namely, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that the team could not reach a deal with Tyronn Lue, their choice to fill the team's vacant head-coaching position.
We'll see whether the two sides can eventually reach an agreement, but Leonard's future destination seems among the least of the franchise's problems right now.