Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle/advisor, Dennis Robertson, reportedly asked teams for houses, planes and guaranteed sponsorship money – inducements illegal under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Raptors spread word Robertson made unreasonable requests of them. The Lakers reportedly feel they got played during Leonard’s free agency.
Connect the dots.
Sources say the league was told that Robertson asked team officials for part ownership of the team, a private plane that would be available at all times, a house and — last but certainly not least — a guaranteed amount of off-court endorsement money that they could expect if Leonard played for their team.
A source with knowledge of the Kawhi-Lakers talks said Robertson made those requests repeatedly to owner Jeanie Buss over the course of three phone calls that spanned several days, and that she made it clear that such perks were illegal and would not be considered.
Those uncomfortable discussions with Robertson, along with Buss’ growing sense at the time that the Lakers were being used as leverage to help Leonard get what he wanted out of the Clippers, are at the heart of the frustration that remains to this day. What’s more, sources said that Robertson made similar requests of the Raptors.
The NBA investigated whether teams offered improper inducements to free agents. According to Amick, the league checked on the Clippers in particular and found no wrongdoing.
That’s not easy for Lakers and Raptors partisans to accept.
If Robertson made those requests of the Lakers and Raptors, did he also ask the Clippers for those extra benefits? And if Leonard signed with the Clippers, does that indicate they granted those illegal requests?
That’s the line of questioning some from the Lakers and Raptors want people going down.
But there’s also resentment from the Lakers and Raptors that Leonard didn’t choose their team. Are they smearing Leonard and Robertson out of bitterness? It’s plausible.
Another theory: It had long been believed Leonard preferred the Clippers. Maybe the Lakers or Raptors had to offer extra benefits to catch up to the Clippers, even if the Clippers were following the rules.
The premise that Leonard always preferred the Clippers is the basis of the idea that Leonard played the Lakers by feigning interest, waiting for other quality free agents to commit elsewhere then signing with the Clippers. He denied that. But it’s easy to see how the Lakers would hold a grudge.
Griping persists about Leonard’s free agency. It seems likely Robertson tried to cross lines. But did the Clippers actually indulge him? If Leonard were sabotaging the Lakers, his free agency would’ve played out similar to how it actually did. But was that his actual intent?
There’s a lot more chatter than credible evidence.