That is the claim from NBA insider Stephen A. Smith.
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Reports emerged recently that James’ free agency signing could hinder the Lakers’ hopes of landing Leonard this summer or next due to the forward’s introverted personality.
Well-connected Yahoo reporter Shams Charania also claimed that the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year has “no interest” in joining a superteam, which he likely would be doing in joining James at Staples Center.
And that leaves the Clippers as a possible destination with the 27-year-old desperate to leave the San Antonio Spurs to play in his California hometown.
A trade to the Lakers is still on the cards this summer, although the Clippers do not have the assets to enter the equation. Their best hope is for Leonard to become an unrestricted free agent in 12 months’ time.
ESPN analyst Smith believes that if that were to happen, the Clippers might have a strong chance of landing Leonard but insists it is dependent on Lakers trade talks failing to come to fruition.
“I haven’t heard that at all,” Smith said in response to rumours Leonard does not want to play alongside James.
“I’ve talked about how Kawhi, playing in Los Angeles, he’s not about the glitz and the glamour and the paparazzi-type atmosphere.
“If someone said that was the cause, that would be different. But saying he doesn’t want to play second banana, meaning he wants the ball and to be the number one offensive option – I’m not sure that’s so important to him.
“I’ve also reported that Kawhi Leonard has made it clear, even though the Lakers are his preference – if that doesn’t work out, he’s willing to be a Clipper. So long as he’s in Los Angeles, fine.
“He would prefer the Lakers but the Clippers are fully aware that he wouldn’t mind them if the Lakers scenario didn’t work out.
“In their own subtle ways they have been attempting to manipulate San Antonio to hold off on sending Kawhi to the Lakers.
“Because if indeed they hold off and the Clippers are in a position next summer where Kawhi is still on the open market and they have the max contract dollars to pay him, they believe their chances are incredibly legitimate to land him.
“All Kawhi wants to do is get out of San Antonio, end up in LA. Whether it’s for the Lakers or the Clippers he can stomach it, so long as he returns home.
“That’s what I’ve been told. They’re hopeful that San Antonio won’t cave and give him away to the Lakers or that somehow, someway his arrival to the Lakers can be derailed for them to legitimately compete.
“The Clippers can make the argument that it would be the environment that Kawhi wants because his personality veers towards something like that.”