Report: Kawhi Leonard more open to Clippers with LeBron James on Lakers

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When ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said he heard Kawhi Leonard was more reluctant to join the Lakers with LeBron James there, I was skeptical.

But now Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports – who seems plugged-in with Leonard – is echoing that sentiment.

Charania on The Herd with Colin Cowherd:

One thing that’s been made abundantly clear. I’m going to stress this. There’s no guarantee if Kawhi Leonard hits the market next summer that he’s going to sign with the Lakers, period. I think his options have broadened a little bit, just inside L.A. There’s another team, obviously, in L.A. I think he’d be very much open to the Clippers.

And there’s a belief around the league that if the Sixers came hard, that there could be a potential there for him potentially being there long-term.

I don’t think there’s much interest in the Boston Celtics scenario for him.

Around Kawhi, what’s been made abundantly clear is there’s not an interest to go join a super team. I don’t think he’s jumping for joy that LeBron James is in L.A. with the Lakers. If anything, that’s going to make him look maybe more toward the Clippers. Because this is a guy that won Finals MVP against LeBron James. You think he’s amped up and wants to join LeBron now? I think that’s been overstated, and the Spurs are beginning to realize that and beginning to realize that we might have a broadened market for him.

Leonard initially leaked he wanted to leave San Antonio for Los Angeles – ideally for the Lakers, but leaving the door open for the Clippers. But that was before LeBron agreed to sign with the Lakers.

This latest revelation sparks many questions.

Will the Clippers more aggressively pursue a Leonard trade now? They’ll have enough cap space to sign him outright next summer, but they might not want to risk him going somewhere – like Philadelphia – and becoming attached.

Will the Lakers still try to trade for him? Would Leonard really leave the Lakers if they trade for him now then offer him a five-year max contract next summer?

If not Leonard, whom are the Lakers saving all their 2019 cap space for? Jimmy Butler? Klay Thompson? Kemba Walker? Kyrie Irving? (Ha!)

Why do other stars keep rebuffing LeBron? Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers. Paul George re-signed with the Thunder without even meeting with the Lakers. And now Leonard might want to avoid teaming up with LeBron.

One caveat to this entire discussion: It’s possible Leonard still favors the Lakers and the Spurs are leaking this to drum up trade interest from other teams. Multiple bidders would give San Antonio leverage.

But, ultimately, it’s becoming increasingly clear we don’t really know much about Leonard. We projected values onto him because he’s quiet and played for the Spurs. As we uncover more about what truly motivates Leonard, we’ll learn much more about the NBA’s landscape.