Magic Johnson may have hurt Lakers' chances of landing Kawhi Leonard in free agency, per report

Magic Johnson may have prevented the Los Angeles Lakers from landing superstar Kawhi Leonard in free agency this summer. 

According to a report from Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic, Johnson's decision to make public conversations that he had with Leonard and his uncle (Kawhi's "trusted confidant") Dennis Roberston regarding the Lakers prior to the start of free agency caused a major lack of trust on Leonard's end and effectively may have ended the Lakers' chances of signing him. Leonard went on to sign a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, who share an arena with the Lakers. 

Johnson stepped down from his role as Lakers president of basketball operations in April, but continued to serve as an unofficial ambassador for the organization heading into the free agency period. 

From The Athletic

The Lakers, whom many around the league presumed were in the lead for Leonard's services before he chose the Clippers, famously function on the opposite end of the spectrum, at least in an informal way.

Magic Johnson, the Lakers legend who abruptly resigned as president of basketball operations in late May and proceeded to torch owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka on national television weeks later, thought it wise to broadcast that Robertson had called to pick his brain about the purple-and-gold before free agency had even begun.

"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."

Though that act alone didn't eliminate the Lakers — Leonard still met and communicated with them before his decision — Johnson's leakage certainly didn't help his former employer's pitch. 

By taking a meeting with Leonard's camp, Johnson thought he was helping the Lakers out, but by publicly discussing the meeting he actually hurt the organization. Leonard is an extremely quiet and reserved person, and he approached his free agency in a similar manner. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Leonard's camp had "insisted on total silence" during his negotiation process. Considering this, it's not super surprising that Johnson publicly discussing any meeting he had with Leonard would agitate the 2019 Finals MVP.   

Michael Kaskey-Blomain covers the NBA for CBS Sports. He has covered the league in some capacity since 2009 for a variety of outlets including Philly.com, ESPN 97.3, and 247 Sports. Michael hails from... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories