LOS ANGELES — Last June and July, most of the Knicks’ free agency buzz centered around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but on the fringes there were rumors about Kawhi Leonard. Maybe Durant and Leonard would team up on the Knicks, but at the very least the Knicks thought they’d get a meeting (which never happened).
Saturday, after an ugly loss with his new Clippers teammates, Leonard shot down the idea the Knicks were even in play, and he never scheduled to meet with them.
“I never said I was considering going to the Knicks,” Leonard said when asked by New York media (in town because the Knicks and Clippers play Sunday). “Everybody knew where I wanted to go and that was requested in the trade, so I don’t know where that came from.”
Leonard wanted to go home to the Los Angeles area, and ultimately that was with the Clippers, not the Lakers.
Knicks brass said they canceled the meeting with Leonard, but that appears to be more face-saving spin out of New York.
Durant laid out the harsh reality about the Knicks right now: The top free agents, especially younger players, are looking elsewhere. Durant chose the team across the Brooklyn Bridge because it had built a better culture and had role players ready to win now, or at least when Durant returns from his torn Achilles (the Nets have floated around .500 lately despite Durant and Kyrie Irving being out). For the Knicks to get the biggest names again, they need to establish a culture, develop players, develop a system, and stick with it for more than a season-and-a-half and show some stability. Do that, and the lure of winning in Madison Square Garden will draw the game’s best.
Right now, Leonard wasn’t even considering them.