The news of an NBA investigation into Uncle Dennis revealed a lot about 2019 Free Agency. Uncle Dennis asked for a lot of things, including part ownership of teams, a private plane available 24/7 and other stuff. A team accepting this would represent salary cap violations, and while no punishment has been given, Adam Silver wanted to make a strong statement that such behavior is noticed and will not be tolerated.
As is often with investigations such as this, they usually help other stories come up to surface, often more interesting than the main one. People talk to explain the situation and share interesting details. Doc Rivers told Arash Markazi that he knew they had a shot at Kawhi when he treated the Lakers and Clippers differently.
The Lakers prepared an entire thing in their practice facility. Teams often put on a show to impress a star free agent, but Kawhi shut it down and told them they can come to his hotel room. It’s much harder to impress someone with a projector and a laptop. But, with the Clippers, Kawhi agreed to come to Doc Rivers’ Malibu home. That’s when Doc knew they had a shot.
In that meeting, the Clippers had a list of players they could try and get to team up with Kawhi. Once he saw Paul George on that list, that was it. Kawhi left and the Clippers had the difficult task of getting PG out of Oklahoma City.
The main pressure point was to convince Steve Ballmer that paying a high price for Paul George was worth it. Three first-round picks, three pick swaps, point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and forward Danilo Gallinari is a lot for one player. When Rivers explained to Ballmer he should look at it like it’s a trade for George and Kawhi, he agreed with the trade.
“I actually told Steve [Ballmer] jokingly that if that happens, we’re moving the team to Seattle. It was a joke, but I was actually serious about it. I really believed that.”Doc Rivers to Bussines Insider
The Lakers failed to attract Kawhi, and it seems Magic Johnson was a big part of that. Kawhi made it clear to all teams that he doesn’t want anything leaked to media. Magic tweeted about meeting with Leonard and his uncle and advisor, Dennis Robertson. Even after he left the team, Magic managed to mess things up for the Lakers.
“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 source via The Athletic
It may seem absurd now, but even with Kawhi and Paul George, not all Clipper games are sold out. The Lakers have decades of excellence in Los Angeles and it will take a lot of Clipper championships and iconic performances to start winning fans over. Imagine a world in which LeBron, Kawhi, and Davis are on the Lakers, Paul George doesn’t come to the Clippers and Steve Ballmer has an expensive legal battle ahead of him just to get the chance to spend $2 billion on an arena in Inglewood that doesn’t have a guarantee of being sold out every night.
Meanwhile, up north, Seattle is waiting to get the NBA back. Ballmer still lives in Seattle, everyone in the NBA would support the return of the Sonics and every game would be at full capacity. Who know, we truly may have been a tweet not being sent away from the return of the Sonics.