Kawhi Leonard denied he led the Los Angeles Lakers on in free agency before signing with the Clippers. While Leonard seemed to want a return to Southern California, he said that he gave Los Angeles' premier team no indication that he would sign with them.
“If they didn’t want to wait for me, they didn’t have to,” Leonard told Yahoo! Sports. “They had a big opportunity to sign me. [The Lakers] were close, but I ended up on the other side...I didn’t lead anyone on.”
Leonard said his drawn-out decision (at least by this offseason's standards) was just him taking his time and making sure that he landed somewhere he wanted to be.
“I took my time in free agency, as I should, to make sure I made the best decision for myself and my family. I feel like some of the media coverage over it made it feel that way, with people saying I’m signing with Toronto 99 percent or I’m going to the Lakers 99 percent," he said. "I don’t ever want to have that bad karma come back on me trying to make the Lakers miss out on players they should have gotten or vice-versa with the Raptors.”
He also denied reports that he grew up as a fan of the Lakers. He said that was just speculation based on the fact that he grew up in Southern California.
“Y’all kept saying that me and Paul’s favorite team growing up was the Lakers. I’m not going to say [Yahoo! Sports], but whatever media outlet was out there saying that Kawhi prefers the Lakers over the Clippers, or Paul loves the Lakers, was wrong,” Leonard said. “I wasn’t a fan of the Lakers growing up. Not saying that’s why I didn’t choose them, but that’s not what it is. I wasn’t a fan of them, and [Paul] just told you guys he was a Clippers fan.”
Finally, an uncharacteristically unguarded Leonard denied that he orchestrated a deal to land both him and George in Los Angeles. He said that he passed on the idea that he'd like to play with George, but he didn't do anything untoward.
“Shit, I guess I need a front-office position if that’s what happened,” he said. “They’re saying I was the architect of the deal. I’ll say this: players talk, and when I talked to the Clippers, they had certain players they thought they could pair with me before I signed. His name was on the board, and I said I would love to play with him. They made the opportunity happen in probably two to three days later."