And still, we wait.
But for how much longer? Nobody can say for sure, but logically, it makes sense to expect Kawhi Leonard to make a decision on his future sometime on Friday.
Is that guaranteed? Where Leonard is concerned, as we’ve seen so often, nothing is, but the NBA’s moratorium period ends at noon E.T. on Saturday and all of those deals you’ve been hearing about since the NBA Draft a couple of weeks ago, which ramped up starting at free agency’s opening last Sunday, will become official. It’s only fair to the teams and players involved that Leonard makes his call by then, so everyone can get on with their Plans A, B and C as pretty much the entire league shifts to Las Vegas for Summer League.
The Kwest for Kawhi has ranged from the hilarious, to the sublime and on to the ridiculous on Wednesday, when a Toronto station embarrassingly tracked Leonard’s airport run to a rumoured meeting with the Raptors. It was Canada’s version of the white Bronco chase, 25 years after O.J. Simpson captivated the world’s attention while his buddy Al Cowlings led everyone on a low-speed chase.
Today, Leonard’s buddy, Danny Green, seems content to sit and wait for Leonard to make his decision. They’ve been teammates since 2011 and Green’s first choice, he has said often, would be to try to run it back with the defending champion Raptors. If not he could be a fit with the Los Angeles Lakers should Leonard go there, with the Dallas Mavericks, or maybe even the Los Angeles Clippers, with or without Leonard.
While it feels like this sideshow has been going on forever, it’s not the first time a player of Leonard’s caliber has done his due diligence instead of immediately committing to his future.
LeBron James bailed on Cleveland on July 8, 2010 and returned on July 11, 2014. It was a different system, but Shaquille O’Neal didn’t officially leave Orlando for the Lakers in 1996 until July 18. Tracy McGrady wasn’t signed-and-traded from Toronto to Orlando until August in 2000, the same time Grant Hill also joined the Magic.
Leonard has proven he can’t be rushed in any way, on or off of the court. He’ll get where he wants to go in his own time.
Of course his eventual choice, whatever it may be, will echo around the league.
The champs will be the favourites again should he re-commit for any length of time. If he exits, he will have delivered something previously thought unattainable in Toronto, and the team would remain competitive in the East.
The Lakers would have built arguably the best Big 3 in NBA history, despite all of the missteps by management, if Leonard joined James and Anthony Davis. Depth would be an issue (though talented veterans still on the market and on the buyout list eventually, would likely be lining up to join the team). Or, the Lakers would have missed out on a number of players who could have complemented James and Davis and also failed to secure Leonard’s services. They’d still be good, but no group would have less depth.
The Clippers, considered the favourites as far back as a year ago and for most of the time since, have stalked Leonard as aggressively as the Toronto news media for 11 months now. It would all be worth it, even if a lot of it was cringe-worthy, should Leonard head home and legitimize the Clippers. But failing to land the prized recruit would be a considerable setback. The worst-case for the Clippers would be the rival Lakers winning out and yet again making the Clips look like the junior varsity franchise.
A lot of people are going to be happy sometime soon. And a lot more will be crushed.
Leonard’s that good, that much of a game-changer.
NBA free agency has been exciting so far, but it has one big moment still to come.
BEST AVAILABLE FREE AGENTS
Kawhi Leonard is the biggest domino yet to fall in NBA free agency, but here are the other best remaining players on the market (at press time on Thursday):
DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State – Market has seemingly dried up for mercurial former all-star.
Danny Green, Toronto – Waiting on Kawhi, like the rest of us.
Marcus Morris, Boston – Solid two-way starter with an edge.
JaMychal Green, Memphis – Underrated, versatile big with some injury issues.
Justin Holiday, Memphis – A slightly younger version of Danny Green.
Jabari Parker, Washington – Former No. 2 pick can score, but isn’t worth big money.
Delon Wright, Memphis – Ex-Raptor is intriguing, but Grizzlies can match any offer.
Rajon Rondo, Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron friend probably returns to Lakers.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Los Angeles Lakers – Another LeBron buddy can shoot and defend.
Iman Shumpert, Sacramento – Veteran could help many teams as a reserve.
Vince Carter, Atlanta – Ageless Vinsanity is playing one more season.
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