Report: NBA Investigating Clippers over Kawhi Leonard Recruitment Allegations

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2020

Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after making a three-point shot against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Clippers won 126-111. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

The NBA has opened an investigation into the Los Angeles Clippers following a TMZ Sports story about the circumstances surrounding Kawhi Leonard's decision to join the team, according to The Athletic's Sam Amick.

TMZ Sports reported Monday that Johnny Wilkes filed suit against Jerry West, who has an executive role within the Clippers, alleging he was supposed to be paid $2.5 million for helping push Leonard toward the franchise:

"Wilkes says in the lawsuit he 'immediately went to work' ... and began convincing Kawhi and Kawhi's uncle the Clippers were the right team for him after he had just left the Toronto Raptors.

"Wilkes says he told West and the Clippers they needed to get Paul George first and foremost to hook Kawhi. He then says he helped connect West with Kawhi's uncle.

"Wilkes also claims in the suit he gave West a specific gameplan for how the Clippers should pitch Kawhi during an important meeting with West, Leonard, Doc Rivers and others in July 2019."

West issued a response to TMZ Sports: "I am not aware of any lawsuit being filed against me and I deny engaging in any improper conduct in connection with the signing of Kawhi Leonard."

The Clippers also denied wrongdoing: 

Jovan Buha @jovanbuha

Statement from the Clippers: https://t.co/4vKNfpD0k3

This isn't the first time the NBA looked into the Clippers' signing of Leonard ahead of the 2019-20 season, with the concerns centered around Leonard's uncle, Dennis Robertson.

Amick reported in December 2019 the league "conducted a formal investigation of the Clippers last summer after complaints surfaced that Robertson had asked for improper benefits during the free agency process."

Among the things Robertson requested was a house, the on-demand use of a private plane and an ownership stake in the franchise with which Leonard signed.

According to Amick, Robertson approached both the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors with the requests, raising questions about how far the Clippers went to get his signature. The NBA didn't find evidence of any wrongdoing.

Leonard put pen to paper on a three-year deal worth $103.1 million, and he can opt out after this season.

The NBA stripped the Minnesota Timberwolves of five first-round picks in 2000 when they circumvented league rules to sign Joe Smith.

If the Clippers did anything improper related to Leonard, then they could face an even heavier punishment considering commissioner Adam Silver has emphasized the importance of following the anti-tampering statutes.


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