There’s going to be a lot of smiles and feel-good vibes with fluffy questions being asked along the lines of “How good is it to be playing back home?” or “What’s your fondest memory of growing up in Southern California?”
Outside of these sorts of queries, however, there are still a number of relatively serious things we’d like answers to.
Particularly pertaining to Leonard and his departure from the Toronto Raptors just after helping the franchise win its first-ever championship, there’s still a lot left unanswered.
As such, we put together some questions we’d love to hear asked on Wednesday of Leonard and George. The majority of these probably won’t be asked – and even if they are there’s an even slimmer chance they’ll be answered in a satisfying way – but on its cathartic value alone, this is a worthwhile exercise.
“Kawhi, would you have stayed in Toronto if the Raptors completed the rumoured trade for George and Westbrook?”
Just mere hours after it was reported Leonard was signing with the Clippers and that Los Angeles had also swung a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder to pair him up with George, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported there was a deal on the table between the Thunder and Raptors that could’ve landed Toronto George and 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook.
It obviously didn’t happen and we’ll never really know for sure if OKC general manager Sam Presti truly dangled such an offer in front of Raptors president Masai Ujiri, but one thing we might be able to find out is if having both George and Westbrook in Toronto would’ve been enough to convince Leonard to stick around.
Given the reported machinations Leonard made to bring George with him to the Clippers, having him seems like a good place to start if you’re the Raptors. So then, could Westbrook have been the piece that Leonard soured on?
Again, we don’t know, but the question is worth asking.
“Kawhi, you chose to force a move to team up with one superstar with the Clippers instead of joining two superstars with the Lakers. Why was that?”
And on the topic of the behind-the-scenes work Leonard put in to bring George to the Clippers, getting any insight on that would be particularly interesting.
Had Leonard chosen the Los Angeles Lakers he’d be in a situation with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, a team that almost assuredly would be considered title favourites regardless of any potential depth problems they’d run into.
On paper, joining the Lakers looked like possibly a better situation than the Clippers before it was known George was also on his way.
So then, why? What is it about the Clippers and George that enticed Leonard?
“Kawhi and Paul, are you guys at all concerned about what the Clippers had to give up to OKC in the big trade to bring you both here?”
Piggy-backing off the previous question, bringing George to the Clippers to appease Leonard and convince him to sign didn’t exactly come cheap.
Los Angeles ended up giving up five first-round picks, the rights to swap two other first-round picks, and two solid roster players in Danilo Gallinari and Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
From an asset standpoint, this trade completely gutted the Clippers. And while the team didn’t completely kill its depth with players like Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell remaining, the departures of Gallinari and Gilgeous-Alexander will be felt.
So then, from Leonard and George’s perspective it’s probably really cool to play with a guy of equal ability and they likely aren’t thinking about the long-term future of the Clippers as a whole at all.
“Kawhi, why did you sign a two-year deal with an option over a full-length, four-year deal?”
Speaking of the Clippers’ long-term plans, as it stands now, it doesn’t look like Leonard wants to be there for the long-haul.
A few days after it was reported Leonard would be heading to the Clippers, another report came out saying Leonard inked a contract for three years with a player option, which essentially made the deal he signed a two-year commitment.
Thinking about it financially, this kind of deal does make sense for Leonard as he would’ve completed 10 years of service time after two years and therefore would be in line for a 35-per-cent-of-the-cap maximum-salary contract in the summer of 2021.
Leonard has left money on the table twice in his career – once when he demanded a trade from the San Antonio Spurs when he was eligible for a super-max extension, and again when he left the Raptors who could’ve offered him more money than any other team as a re-signing player given they owned his Bird rights – and by the looks of how he structured this contract he won’t be doing that a third time.
But is the reasoning for this deal really only just motivated by money? If it was then there’s an argument to be made that signing this exact kind of three-year contract with a player option made more sense to do with the Raptors, as only Toronto could offer a maximum of eight per-cent raises instead of the five per-cent non-Bird rights holders can do.
Additionally, if Leonard really was that jacked up about heading to the Clippers, should he not have just committed to a full four-year contract?
It’s hard to say for certain what exactly motivated Leonard to do this kind of deal.
“Kawhi, were you ever seriously considering re-signing with the Raptors?”
The question every Raptors fan wants answered, if even just to finally have some closure on a rollercoaster ride 12 months of Leonard.
The other questions in this post give context and answer part of this one, but this one cuts right to the heart of the matter. Regardless of the answer, it would put to rest all the silly “what if” scenarios regarding what Toronto could’ve done to convince him to stay that have sprung up and will continue to spring up if this doesn’t get put to rest.