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#pounditSunday, October 25, 2020

Doc Rivers reveals when he knew Clippers had edge over Lakers for Kawhi Leonard

There was a significant period of time during NBA free agency when the Los Angeles Lakers seemed like the favorite to sign Kawhi Leonard, but in hindsight it looks like that was all part of Leonard’s master plan. He clearly preferred the Los Angeles Clippers all along, and Doc Rivers had a hunch that was the case early in the recruiting process.

When Leonard was setting up free agent meetings, he apparently treated the Lakers and Clippers differently. Rivers told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times that he felt good about his team’s chances when Kawhi made the Lakers meet with him at his hotel room but was willing to go to the Clippers’ facility.

Leonard reportedly had the meeting at his hotel room so he could later meet with Paul George.

Despite what many reporters wanted us to believe, Leonard never intended to play with LeBron James. He almost certainly used the Lakers as leverage to put pressure on the Clippers to improve their roster, which they did by trading six draft picks to acquire Paul George. Leonard also helped facilitate that deal by picking George off a list of players the Clippers gave him.

Rivers also said Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was hesitant to trade all those picks for George, but Doc convinced him to view it as trading six picks for both George and Leonard.

Kawhi’s goal all along was to find another star player to team with on the Clippers, and he tried unsuccessfully to recruit other star free agents. When that possibility no longer existed, he turned to Plan B and used the Lakers to help him get what he wanted. They may not have thought much of Kawhi making them go to his hotel room to meet, but it probably said a lot about where his mindset was at the time.

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