Kawhi Leonard has denied that Johnny Wilkes, the man suing Clippers executive Jerry West, had any influence over his decision to join Los Angeles.
"That has nothing to do with me, nobody swayed my mind to go somewhere," said Leonard during press interviews on Thursday. "I’m from L.A. and I grew up here my whole life. And out here, people try to find any way to get some money. It probably won’t be the last. I know a lot of people out here."
He did not, however, indicate whether he knew Johnny Wilkes, who has claimed that he helped West sign Leonard to the Clippers last year. His current team has also denied the allegations Wilkes has leveled against West, and said that they are working to provide "the NBA with evidence that the allegations are false."
TMZ reports, however, that West personally thanked Wilkes in a voicemail message he left him last year. Wilkes claimed that the voicemail showed West "expressing concern that Kawhi would choose the Lakers over the Clippers." He added, "in the same message, Jerry thanked me for all my efforts in getting Kawhi to sign with the Clippers."
The man in the voicemail sounds a lot like West, but so far it doesn't seem to be verified. "I just find it hard to believe that he would want to go to that shit show where he would not even be... wouldn't even get his name in the paper and he wouldn't be the face of the franchise that's for sure," the man who appears to be West said in the voicemail. "He might be the best player on the team, but hope things are well and again, I really really appreciate everything you've done."
The voicemail appears to back up Wilkes' claims, with the man in the clip explaining that he will "keep you apprised of what's going on." He went on to suggest a dinner with Sam Watson, another man alleged to have been involved in courting Leonard to the Clippers, for a private meeting of sorts. West has denied the allegations, and the NBA has launched a full investigation into the issue.
In his lawsuit, Wilkes is asking for $2.5 million for allegedly helping Clippers land Kawhi Leonard, the 2019 NBA Finals MVP. He has said that West agreed to pay the figure before Leonard signed to the team, and that the team promised other inducements including a travel expense account and a house for Leonard's uncle Dennis Robertson, who Wilkes claims is a "best friend" of his.