Kawhi Leonard is keeping everyone on pins and needles.
There was a dizzying flurry of reported signings by superstar players after the doors of NBA free agency swung wide open on Sunday evening, but the most intriguing player available remained characteristically quiet.
Leonard, the megastar who just lead the Toronto Raptors to their first-ever championship, kept silent about whether he will remain in Canada or go make another squad a title contender.
Now that free agency has opened, players can agree to deals with teams, but they cannot sign their contracts until July 6.
The biggest deal came from the Brooklyn Nets right out of the gate, reportedly agreeing to deals with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan, according to ESPN. The huge talent infusion could make the Nets a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference.
Durant confirmed the news on the Instagram page of his company-owned sports business network, The Boardroom, right at 6 p.m, when the negotiating period began. The bevy of quick signings made it clear NBA teams were not waiting for that opening time to start their conversations.
In recent days, several reports said Leonard planned to meet with the Clippers and Lakers in his hometown of Los Angeles before speaking with the Raptors. It remained unclear Sunday night whether Leonard has taken any meetings yet.
The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday night that former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson spoke with Leonard and his uncle, Dennis Roberston, on Sunday. The Times story said Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka reached out to Leonard’s camp after the window opened for teams to communicate. While Leonard’s camp had initially requested that only Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss be present from the Lakers’ front office, they are now considering a meeting that would include Pelinka.
Leonard, who turned 28 on Saturday, is the best free agent left on the board. His decision will shape the face of next year’s Raptors squad. It could also change the complexion of the Western Conference should he opt to join the Lakers, where he would team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Raptors are the only club that can offer Leonard a max contract for five years and $190-million.
ESPN reported over the weekend that someone from Leonard’s circle contacted Johnson to have a conversation, although the Hall of Famer is no longer officially permitted to take part in an official meeting with other Lakers players or staff.
There were a slew of other significant deals around the league reported by ESPN. The Philadelphia 76ers are reportedly keeping Tobias Harris, while J.J. Redick is leaving the Sixers for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Kemba Walker is reportedly leaving the Charlotte Hornets for the Boston Celtics and Kristaps Porzingis is staying with the Dallas Mavericks. The Milwaukee Bucks are re-upping with Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton while trading away Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers. Ex-Raptor Jonas Valanciunas is returning to the Memphis Grizzlies and Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross are opting for new deals with the Orlando Magic. Derrick Rose is departing the Minnesota Timberwolves to join Dwane Casey’s Detroit Pistons; and Indiana’s Bojan Bogdanovic is headed to the Utah Jazz.
Even with all of that hitting the news, no developments emerged about Leonard.
For months, fans have been trying to read meaning into every move Leonard makes. Was it significant that he visited Niagara Falls or a Blue Jays game? Could an affinity for Toronto be inferred from Leonard being photographed wearing a Jays jersey while vacationing in the Barbados with his family?
Leonard produced career highs in points (26.6) and rebounds (7.3) this season with the Raptors – his single season in Toronto since the team got him in a deal that shipped off long-time Raptor DeMar DeRozan. Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, a three-time All-Star and just earned his second NBA Finals MVP trophy.
The other significant Raptors free agent still up in the air is veteran shooting guard Danny Green.
Marc Gasol had a player option worth $25.6-million for next season and last week the Raptors announced the 34-year-old centre will exercise it and remain with the NBA champs for at least one more season.