It's hard to gauge the veracity of a "whisper," but we're gonna try. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor included a disarming paragraph about the prospect of LeBron James teaming with Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler in his preview column on Tuesday because both Kawhi and Jimmy will be unrestricted free agents this coming summer:
There are whispers around the league that neither Jimmy Butler nor Kawhi Leonard wants to play with LeBron, and sources I’ve talked to would be shocked if Klay Thompson left Golden State. That might leave the Lakers with Walker or Middleton as their top remaining free-agent targets. If I’m the Hornets, that possibility would have me worried.
The idea that two of next summer's biggest free agents don't want to play with the King isn't altogether a new idea. Butler's disinterest in the Lakers was included when reports said the Clippers were in the running for his services following his trade demand. The same could be said about Kawhi this summer after LeBron signed with the Lakers. Leonard—who went to high school in Riverside, California, just an hour east of L.A.—allegedly switched his interest to LA's other team, the Clippers, after Bron signed with the purple and gold. It's not so hard to envision why.
James' fame is a sarlacc for the spotlight, gobbling it up wherever he goes. Credit and superstar endorsements were, perhaps ostensibly, the whole reason Kawhi Leonard's camp—i.e. Cousin Dennis—wanted out of San Antonio. Jimmy Butler claims winning is all that matters, but if that was really the case, why would he be anathema to the prospect of teaming with LeBron on the Lakers? As Cleveland's sad-sack run to the Finals showed last year, which marked James' eighth straight trip to the big stage, he's still the best player in the Association.
This is still speculative mumbo-jumbo, but the best chance Leonard and Butler have of dethroning the Warriors is by teaming with the last guy to do it. However, if they'd rather be the metaphorical man wherever they play next, than alongside LeBron won't work. And they know it. James' star power blots out the sun for the rest of his teammates, and it seems like both Jimmy and Kawhi are more dependent on the media's photosynthesis than previously thought.