Sunday was all about Kevin Durant, but the real prize of NBA free agency remains reigning NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard.
The Los Angeles Lakers have gone all out in their pursuit of Leonard after giving up their future to trade for Anthony Davis, and their entire offseason will be defined by their success or failure to convince him to buy into Lakers Nation as his future.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported Sunday evening that Leonard was not taking any meetings with teams on the first day of free agency, noting he’ll “ramp up the process over the next couple of days.”
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka, meanwhile, are likely working on their deep breathing exercises.
There is so much at stake for the Lakers as they pursue this year’s top free agent. With Leonard, they are legitimate championship contenders and may just feature the NBA’s most imposing trio of superstars. Without him, and the Lakers are just another team in the uber-competitive Western Conference.
The Lakers aren’t the only high-profile team still in the running for Leonard. Their in-city rival Los Angeles Clippers have been reported as a heavy favorite to land the star forward. And, of course, the Toronto Raptors will certainly have something to say about all this before it’s over and done.
Here’s how much the Lakers are banking on landing Leonard: Magic Johnson — you know, the guy who abandoned them by shockingly quitting after last season — is part of their recruiting process for Leonard.
All the Lakers’ eggs are in the Kawhi Leonard basket. Land him, and suddenly one of the Association’s most storied franchises is right back in it as a title contender. Fail to sign him, and it’s yet another wasted season of unfulfilled expectations.
And so we all wait, as Leonard bides his time and methodically goes about his business — just like he’s always done.