Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were introduced as Los Angeles Clippers yesterday, with resulting media interviews of the two following the event. Rachel Nichols of ESPN was able to sit down with the two, while Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports also got the chance to interview Kawhi Leonard. In addition to the interview, sources told Yahoo Sports that if the Clippers weren’t able to make the trade for Paul George, Kawhi Leonard would have likely signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
This backs up many things that Leonard has said since being introduced as a Clipper, including in his interview with Rachel Nichols/ESPN when he said that the Lakers and Raptors were “very close” to signing him.
It was briefly reported that Magic Johnson’s inability to keep his conversation with Leonard under wraps “sealed the fate” for the Lakers not being able to sign him, but Leonard squashed that rumor, saying the following in his interview with Chris Hayes/Yahoo Sports:
(Kawhi Leonard on whether or not the leaks from Magic Johnson affected his decision to not join the Lakers)
No, it wasn’t an issue or whatever that anyone wants to say is true. That’s not a reason why I didn’t sign with the Lakers. The conversation was transparent when I had it with Magic. As long as me or him, or who talked in the conversation was fair and was truthful, you know, I don’t have too much to say about it.
All of that may give Lakers fans some comfort, but Leonard also emphasized that he and Paul George didn’t grow up Lakers fans growing up in southern California, saying the following:
Y’all kept saying that me and Paul’s favorite team growing up was the Lakers. I’m not going to say [Yahoo Sports], but whatever media outlet was out there saying that Kawhi prefers the Lakers over the Clippers, or Paul loves the Lakers, was wrong. I wasn’t a fan of the Lakers growing up. Not saying that’s why I didn’t choose them, but that’s not what it is. I wasn’t a fan of them, and [Paul] just told you guys he was a Clippers fan.
Alas, the Lakers appeared to have been very close to signing the man, the myth, Kawhi Leonard. They weren’t able to get him apparently due to Paul George being traded to the Clippers, setting the stage for a battle for L.A. the next few years.