Day 6: Still nothing — but — a decision could be near.
As we parse through the significant noise of #KawhiWatch, the situation is fairly simple: Having now met with the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard and his family are weighing their options while a global NBA audience waits to learn what the future of the NBA will look like.
Here are the latest rumours and rumblings surrounding Leonard’s impending decision:
More details emerge
Earlier Friday Cris Carter, maybe the most plugged-in of the countless people reporting on Leonard’s free agency process, said that a decision could be coming today, but has since posted an update on Twitter saying that is no longer the case and Leonard is still in deliberation mode.
Carter also adds that Leonard is not looking for a short-term deal from either the Raptors, Lakers, or Clippers.
Does the term length of Kawhi’s contract favour any one of the three teams? Obviously nobody but Leonard and his people know but it was previously believed that the most likely scenario in which Leonard would return to Toronto would be on a one or two-year deal, reported with utmost confidence from ESPN’s Jalen Rose earlier this week.
The Raptors, however, can offer a longer-term deal for more money than either the Clippers or Lakers. Stay tuned.
Today’s the day?
The wait has been excruciating. The teams that lose out on Leonard will be left scrambling to pick up the pieces from an off-season and free-agent frenzy that has seemingly, in the span of just a week, already passed them by.
NFL Hall of Famer and FS1 talking head Cris Carter, who explained on Thursday why he is a trusted source regarding the Leonard camp, said on Friday that he expects a decision to come sometime today.
Carter also laid out the opportunities in front of Leonard and surmises that the main priority for the reigning Finals MVP is to find an organization that will allow him to continue to reach his potential and help deliver as many championships as possible — it should come as little surprise that Leonard, the man with the highest career winning percentage of any player in NBA history, values winning above all.
But, according to Carter, that could ultimately be what pushes Leonard toward playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Lakers:
The return of #PlaneWatch
It’s been a good week for amateur flight trackers out there, as the comings and goings of MLSE’s private jet has already sent Toronto into a fury once. Today the jet is apparently on its way to San Diego where Leonard has a home, so, CUE THE SPECULATION:
Hey, that was a quick trip.
Same old Kawhi
While fellow all-stars like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kemba Walker made swift decisions at the onset of free agency last Sunday, Leonard is obviously taking his sweet time — which, for a major life decision such as this, certainly makes sense.
As those players have made up their minds quickly or knew what they wanted all along, Leonard has been more methodical, or traditional, in his approach to free agency. He didn’t feel compelled to sprint when the 6 pm ET alarm bell rang on June 30th, instead scheduling meetings with prospective teams throughout the first week of the free-agent process.
He asked questions and heard what the Lakers, Clippers, and Raptors were selling him, and is mulling over his options: Return to Toronto, where he never necessarily wanted to go in the first place but found a city and organization that helped foster his goals and ambitions, or go home to Los Angeles and either carry another under-serviced franchise to unthinkable heights with the Clippers or continue a storied NBA legacy of Laker legends and champions.
The slower, deliberate process Leonard and his camp have taken in free agency is nothing new. The unhurried nature of Leonard’s approach — a distinct asset he utilizes on the court — has been his modus operandi.
In the Los Angeles Times, writer Andrew Greif looks back at Leonard’s last recruitment process, which came a decade ago when Leonard, then an unheralded breakout star at Riverside King high school outside L.A., had to choose which NCAA program he wanted to play for:
While dozens of NBA players quickly agreed to deals as soon as free agency opened Sunday, Leonard’s decision is now on its fifth day. While details about other players’ leanings quickly leaked, Leonard’s preferred destination — Raptors? Clippers? Lakers? — has been shrouded in utter silence, with teams keeping quiet so as to hold true to the reserved sensibilities of Leonard.
As the most sought-after basketball player in the world after leading Toronto to its first NBA championship, Leonard is no longer the teenager who never received scholarship offers from blue-blood colleges. Times have changed, but everything about Leonard’s quiet handling of free agency has felt familiar for Hutson, one of only a few people in the world who knows what it is like to recruit, and land, Leonard.
The major influences on Leonard — his mother, Kim Robertson, and uncle, Dennis Robertson — are the same now as they were in high school.
“He’s going to make [his decision] on his own terms, his own time,” Hutson said. “He’s going to talk to the people important to him about it. He’s not going to be out leaking every little bit or have an announcement.”
During that college recruitment process, Leonard received offers from traditional powerhouses like UCLA and Connecticut but opted to attend San Diego State — the first school that had expressed interest in him.