Windhorst: Lakers Feel 'They Got Played' in Kawhi Leonard Free-Agency Pursuit

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJuly 19, 2019

Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard in action during the first half of Game 3 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Philadelphia. 76ers won 116-95. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

The two teams that lost the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes didn't take too kindly to how the reigning NBA Finals MVP conducted his free agency. 

Per ESPN's Brian Windhorst on his Hoop Collective Podcast (h/t NBC Sports' Dan Feldman), the Los Angeles Lakers are upset because they feel like "they got played" by Leonard. 

Windhorst noted the Toronto Raptors were also unhappy because Leonard "came in and asked for the sun, the moon, the stars then left them at the altar."

ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported "as late as 9 p.m. PT" on July 5 that Leonard asked the Lakers to delay officially consummating their trade for Anthony Davis until "as late as Sunday (July 7)," which would hold up their cap space in the process. 

The NBA's free-agent moratorium period ended at 12 p.m. ET on July 6, so players who had already agreed to deals could officially sign their contracts at that point. 

Leonard ultimately agreed to his deal with the Los Angeles Clippers approximately two hours after Shelburne reported he made his plea to the Lakers. That was also the same time when the Clippers agreed to send four future unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick and two pick swaps to the Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire Paul George

Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard determined George was the "co-star he wanted by his side" and George's agent, Aaron Mintz, made a trade request to Thunder general manager Sam Presti days before the trade with the Clippers went down. 

Wojnarowski also noted Presti was willing to pursue a package deal of George and Russell Westbrook to the Raptors if the reigning NBA champions wanted to do it in an attempt to retain Leonard, but "no talks ever gained traction" because Toronto wasn't inclined to put together an offer close to what the Clippers made. 

Despite not landing Leonard in free agency, the Lakers still came out of this offseason in much better shape than where they were when last season ended. Davis and LeBron James are an excellent duo with Kyle Kuzma as the No. 3 option. Role players like Kuzma, Danny Green, Avery Bradley and Quinn Cook give them the shooting they lacked in 2018-19. 

The Raptors were ultimately, as Windhorst said, left at the altar, but they also won an NBA championship in Leonard's only season with the team. Their trade with the San Antonio Spurs last year to acquire him is a success forever. 

The Clippers landed the player they desperately needed if they want to win their first title, while also keeping him away from the Lakers. They also added another superstar talent in George to partner with Leonard.