Media winners and losers from Kawhi Leonard free agency reporting
Kawhi Leonard’s free agency was the biggest sports story of the summer. For a story of that magnitude, there was surprisingly little information about the subject. Leonard is notoriously private, and his team reportedly told the franchises that were in contention to sign him that they didn’t want any leaks. The combination of the two factors resulted in a dearth of information, leading to several unsatisfactory sources trying to step in and fill that void. In the end, some people proved to be ahead of the game with their information and reporting, while others were completely embarrassed by their ill-informed predictions and “inside scoops.”
Here is a look at the media winners and losers from the Kawhi Leonard free agency reporting.
Adrian Wojnarowski, reporter, ESPN
The best reporter in the NBA also had the best information on the biggest free agency story of the summer. Who would have thought it?
Woj set the tone for Leonard’s free agency when he reported on ESPN’s June 18 edition of “Get Up” that Leonard was focused on the Clippers and would likely be choosing between them and the Raptors. In the time leading up to the June 30 start of free agency, Woj continued to emphasize that Leonard’s focus was on the Clippers despite reports pumping up the Lakers. In fact, Woj was so emphatic about the Clippers’ chances of landing Leonard that Lakers fans seriously thought he was on Steve Ballmer’s payroll. They even created this video showing Woj’s supposed bias against the Lakers.
Watch Woj continue to discount the #Lakers chances over the course of the past 9 days like the biased MF that he is.
From June 17th til now the Lakers always had the ability to create 32M in cap space if a third team had been agreed to from the jump. pic.twitter.com/c7H1452CAD
— Vinay Killawala (@vkillem) June 27, 2019
Woj wasn’t biased against the Lakers; he was sharing accurate information that Lakers fans simply did not want to hear.
On top of being at the forefront of the Kawhi-to-the-Clippers talk, Woj also was first to report the news of the Paul George trade, which was an equally big bombshell in tandem with news of Kawhi choosing the Clippers.
Well done, Woj.
David Pingalore, anchor/reporter, KTLA
Very few media members, if any, were calling Kawhi to the Clippers the way David Pingalore was. From June 28 to July 3, Pingalore sent at least six tweets declaring Kawhi’s preferred destination was the Clippers more than any other team. He also went on KTLA — a local news channel in Los Angeles — to report that. At one point later in his reporting he said a return to the Raptors on a short-term contract was a consideration, but he was very consistent in saying Leonard was only focused on the Clippers and never the Lakers.
He’s got receipts too:
My @nba sources say @kawhileonard is “leaning heavily" on joining Jerry West @DocRivers @LAClippers anything to do with the @lakers is smoke and mirrors. Telling me he doesn't want to be a 3rd wheel. It's always been the LAC nothing to prove with @Raptors @KTLA @KTLA5SPORTS
— David pingalore (@DavidPingalore) June 28, 2019
More insight from @nba sources tell me that @kawhileonard is "even closer" to his decision in joining the @LAClippers. His @lakers meeting is out of respect to the franchise, but it's about being the player to create a championship team with @DocRivers. @KTLA @KTLA5SPORTS
— David pingalore (@DavidPingalore) June 29, 2019
Just now hours away before @nba free agency is set to start. My sources continue to tell me.. @kawhileonard is "highly likely" and "really leaning more so" to sign a deal with @LAClippers. Reiterating the NBA finals MVP is NOT at all interested doing a deal with @lakers.
— David pingalore (@DavidPingalore) June 30, 2019
— David pingalore (@DavidPingalore) June 30, 2019
The conversation with my @nba sources continues to be @kawhileonard “heavily leaning towards joining the @clippers. From conversations as of this evening I am still being told he is not interested in joining the @KingJames and @Lakers. Never has been in his sights.
— David pingalore (@DavidPingalore) July 2, 2019
As my @nba sources continue to inform me. It's NEVER BEEN about signing with @lakers. According to what has been told to me.. @kawhileonard "leans heavily in the direction of the @LAClippers. But if not he will stay with the @raptors for two years 68m deal. @nba
— David pingalore (@DavidPingalore) July 3, 2019
Pingalore, who does not have a reputation for breaking news on the Los Angeles sports scene, just put his name on the LA sports media map.
Brian Windhorst, NBA insider, ESPN
Windhorst was one of the few NBA insiders who read and interpreted the Kawhi Leonard situation perfectly. Windhorst repeatedly shared information on his ESPN podcast regarding Leonard. Like Woj, he thought Leonard was more focused on the Clippers than the Lakers when it came to the Los Angeles teams. Windhorst’s crowning moment came on his podcast episode released on Wednesday, two days before Leonard’s decision was announced. Windhorst concluded that episode by saying he thought the Clippers were in the lead for Leonard and that he felt the reason for the delay was because the Clippers were seeking a trade for a second star to pair Leonard with. He was spot-on with his analysis. He showed an excellent ability to parse through information he was receiving and interpret the situation masterfully.
Cris Carter, co-host, FS1
Carter emerged as an unlikely go-to source for information on Kawhi Leonard’s free agency. Carter’s agent when he played, Mitch Frankel, is also Leonard’s agent, which may have given him an inside line to the matter. Unlike Woj or Windhorst, he wasn’t good with predicting where Leonard would go and may have put out some of the misleading information Leonard’s camp wanted out there. In fact, going into free agency, Carter said it was a two-team race between the Lakers and Raptors. He definitely got that wrong, as well as the item about Leonard’s contract length. But Carter was able to shoot down a Lakers rumors later in the process and more importantly, allowed everyone to enjoy the 4th of July freely without worrying about missing out on the announcement. This was a nice time for Carter and allowed him the chance to gain some visibility for a week.
Chris B. Haynes, reporter, Yahoo
Haynes has become a major player on the NBA reporting scene the last few years. He’s been able to obtain scoops and had a few relating to Leonard, such as the news that Kawhi had officially opted out of his contract to become a free agent. He also had news that Kawhi was planning to grant free agency meetings to the Lakers and Clippers. Haynes was among the first, if not the first, to share news that Leonard had officially picked the Clippers.
Ramona Shelburne, reporter, ESPN
Shelburne did not really get involved in the predictions business regarding Leonard, but she did step in with good information to add to the picture both before and after the decision. Some of her information included clearing up Magic Johnson’s role in recruiting Kawhi to the Lakers. She was first to report a couple of the Lakers’ planned signings after they missed out on Leonard, like JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. She also had the detail about Leonard changing the location of his meeting with the Lakers so he could meet with Paul George.
Brad Turner, reporter, Los Angeles Times
There was one actual leak relating to Leonard’s free agency pursuit, and Turner was the one who got the story. Magic Johnson, who turned out to have a very big mouth, leaked details of his conversations with Leonard and his adviser, Dennis Robertson aka “Uncle Dennis.” While every other team involved shared no information through the media about how their talks with Leonard were going, Magic did, and Turner got the scoop. Magic’s leaks were later said to have been detrimental to the Lakers’ efforts to sign Leonard.