Before Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers, he was also considering joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers.
Magic Johnson may have hurt the Lakers' chances of landing Kawhi Leonard during free agency, according to The Athletic. Prior to his decision to sign with Clippers earlier this summer, the two-time NBA Finals MVP had been linked to the Lakers, Nets, Knicks and Raptors.
Leonard, 28, and his camp had reportedly asked all the teams he was considering to avoid leaking information about his free agency process. As Leonard was considering joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers, Johnson made it known in late June that Leonard had requested a meeting with him, despite his request for privacy. Leonard's uncle, Dennis Robertson, was reportedly also in attendance at the meeting.
The Lakers reportedly set up two separate meetings during their recruitment of Leonard: one with owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka and another that included Johnson, who served as Los Angeles's former president of basketball operations until he abruptly stepped down from the organization in April during an impromptu press conference.
Shortly after Johnson and Leonard met, information was leaked about the topics of their conversation which "sealed the fate of the Lakers."
“I truly believe that when Magic started telling the media about the meeting he had with Kawhi and Dennis, that sealed the fate of the Lakers,” a person involved in the process told The Athletic. “I think that right there was when Dennis and Kawhi decided we can’t trust the Lakers as an organization. And that was it. I think that was it for them.”
Johnson was not allowed to be a part of official team meetings with prospective free agents. He told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that neither the Lakers nor Buss asked him to help but by discussing the meeting at all, Lakers legend reportedly broke Leonard's trust in the organization.
"A friend of mine called and says Kawhi wants to meet with you," Johnson told ESPN, per Shelburne. "I said no problem. I'm available if that's what this man wants."
In Johnson's failure to keep the meeting under wraps, Leonard decided he couldn't trust the Lakers organization.
Once LeBron James's Los Angeles team was out of contention, it was up to the Clippers to bring another star on board to secure Leonard. Getting a running mate like All-Star Paul George, Leonard’s camp had told the team, would be the key. The team inquired about Washington’s Bradley Beal and Houston’s James Harden, according to The Athletic, but neither star was available. Leonard had also expressed an interest in joining forces with Jimmy Butler on the Clippers and had reportedly reached out to Kevin Durant about potentially teaming up. Butler wound up with the Heat and Durant landed with the Nets along with Kyrie Irving.
The Clippers ultimately acquired George from the Thunder in a trade, that Leonard had encouraged George to request and the NBA champion then chose to sign with the Clippers.