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Report: Kawhi Leonard More Open to Clippers After LeBron James Joins Lakers

JOSEPH ZUCKER
JULY 03, 2018
One might expect LeBron James’ imminent move to the Los Angeles Lakers would give Kawhi Leonard even more reason to push for a trade to the Lakers, but the opposite may prove true.

During an appearance on Fox Sports Radio’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania reported Leonard may not be “jumping for joy” after James’ decision. Charania added the San Antonio Spurs star could become more receptive to a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers (h/t The Sports Daily’s Farbod Esnaashari).

Klutch Sports Group announced Sunday that James will sign a four-year, $154 million deal with the Lakers.

The Lakers have also agreed to deals with Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee and will re-sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes. Charania reported Rajon Rondo will sign a one-year contract as well.

By adding James, Los Angeles snagged the biggest star on the free-agent market, but part of the team’s success in the offseason hinges on acquiring Leonard.

Right now, either Rondo or Brandon Ingram is the Lakers’ second-best player behind James. Los Angeles has acted quickly to fill out the squad, but Rondo, Stephenson and McGee aren’t going to help bridge the gap between the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors.

One could argue Leonard doesn’t drastically change matters either, but he’s an unquestioned superstar to pair with James. Selling free agents on the franchise’s long-term vision would be a lot easier in 2019 with two top-10 players on the roster.

If Leonard is cooling on the idea of trying to force a trade to the Lakers or signing with the team next summer, then the problems are twofold.

For one, the Lakers risk playing the 2018-19 season without a clear path to a title, which matters given that James turns 34 in December. In addition, Leonard’s change of heart could indicate James’ presence may not have the impact the team’s front office expected. Los Angeles is counting on more marquee names to follow James.

Paul George agreed to a four-year, $137 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, spurning the Lakers in the process. Following that by failing to secure a trade for Leonard would be cause for some concern despite having James’ commitment in the bag.