When Kawhi Leonard was a kid growing up in Southern California, he was surrounded by Los Angeles Lakers fans. His adolescence matched the heyday of Kobe Bryant’s tenure with the franchise, and his family — like so many others in Riverside and other parts of the Inland Empire where he grew up — was full of devoted followers of the purple and gold.nfl cheap jerseys nike
For the past two offseasons, the Lakers have kept their powder dry in the trade market. Rather than sacrificing any of their young core — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart — to pursue a trade for someone like Paul George or Leonard, the Lakers have been content to sit back, let them grow and hope the combination of a young talent base and the bright lights of Hollywood will be enough to lure star power back to Los Angeles again.
It turned out to be enough to get the biggest star of all, LeBron James, to join the Lakers on July 1. But George spurned the chance to play alongside James this summer, opting to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder at the start of free agency. And while there is plenty of time for things to change, there is a sense within the league Leonard will do the same next summer.
It was a throwaway line at the end of a short, perfunctory postpractice interview — one that, like virtually every such session Leonard is a part of, he dutifully worked to end as quickly as he could. But it also was a small window into the mindset Leonard has employed as he has lifted himself from being a high school star plying his trade 60 miles east of Los Angeles into the sport’s best two-way wing player.
A survey of several league executives this weekend had the Lakers trailing, even among Staples Center tenants, in the competition to get Leonard, with the LA Clippers universally being placed ahead of them. Rather than seeking to team up with James, the thinking is that Leonard would prefer to have control of his own team, which the Clippers would offer, while still giving him the ability to return to his native Southern California.
The Lakers explored a potential Leonard trade this summer, but the San Antonio Spurs’ asking price prevented a deal from ever coming close to fruition. The Clippers, meanwhile, have relentlessly pursued Leonard since the summer but didn’t have the assets necessary to get a deal done.nfl nike jerseys for cheap
Toronto, however, did, ultimately sending an All-Star (DeMar DeRozan), a young talent (Jakob Poeltl) and a first-round pick to San Antonio for Leonard and Danny Green. And now that the Raptors get to spend a season recruiting Leonard to remain north of the border, the Raptors have a quiet confidence about their ability to get him to stick around next summer.
One source of optimism stems from the fact that Thunder general manager Sam Presti was able to hang on to George — despite George having openly stated he wanted to play for the Lakers, Oklahoma City being one of the league’s smallest markets and the Thunder having lost in the first round of the playoffs last season. But the bigger source of optimism is what Toronto has to offer Leonard if he does decide to stay.