Kawhi Leonard is a unique personality with a unique outlook on life, basketball and his role in the grand scheme of things, so it is entirely understandable that as the NBA was exploding on Sunday night, he was sitting around waiting patiently to decide his future.
A crazy night of player movement, signings and trades came and went with no hint about his future intentions from the Toronto Raptors forward and reigning NBA Finals most valuable player — who, according to multiple reports, will take the next day or two to decide what he wants to do.
Leonard’s unwillingness to ride the wave of movement during the opening hours of free agency is hardly surprising — he doesn’t strike anyone as someone who makes rash and quick moves — and leaves the Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers and L.A. Lakers still waiting for one major shoe to drop.
If Leonard returns to Toronto — and there remain well-connected sources who think that’s likely — it may leave the two Los Angeles teams scrambling for free agency leftovers.
And with Jimmy Butler, seen in some places as a potential running mate of Leonard’s with the Clippers, now in Miami, that possibility no longer exists.
Green had discussions on Sunday with the Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, likely among other teams, but remains on the market.
There was little expectation that Leonard would be among the first wave of signees, so any move dragging past the immediate explosion of signings was not, in itself, newsworthy. The 28-year-old is not given to rash decisions and the Raptors were never going to force him to decide quickly, because it is not in their nature to do that, either.
And with the Lakers already having twice been fined substantial amounts for tampering, and the Clippers hit with a huge financial penalty during the playoffs for coach Doc Rivers honestly answering a question about Leonard, anyone expecting leaks of any substantial nature must not have been paying attention.
But while the holding pattern remain in place in Toronto, the opening hours of free agency was an unprecedented period of franchise-altering player movement.
The Brooklyn Nets, one of the up-and-coming teams in the East already, made by far the boldest moves, adding Kevin Durant (four years, $164 million, all dollars U.S.) and Kyrie Irving (four years, $141 million) while reportedly closing in on DeAndre Jordan as well.
It’s a bit of a gamble since Durant is unlikely to play at all next season as he rehabs a torn Achilles tendon, and Irving’s reputation as a good teammate took a hit last season in Boston. But as bold moves go, those were the boldest on a frenzied night.
There have been a handful of other deals already agreed to — keeping in mind that players, their agents, their families, their friends and their new or old teammates are free to “announce” them, but no signatures can be put to paper until noon Saturday. It’s unlikely any of the deals will fall apart, but it has happened and nothing is official until it’s official.
The most relevant ones that might have an Eastern Conference impact:
- The Philadelphia 76ers had a tumultuous night, dealing Butler to Miami in a sign-and-trade deal that will net them Josh Richardson and pieces, while watching J.J. Redick leave for New Orleans (two years, $26.5 million), retaining Tobias Harris (five years, $180 million) and adding Al Horford (four years, $97 million). Miami is also sending Goran Dragic to Dallas as part of the Butler transaction.
- The Milwaukee Bucks are keeping Khris Middleton (five years, $158 million) and Brook Lopez (four years, $52 million) but will lose Malcolm Brogdon (four years, $85 million) to Indiana.
- The Pacers will have Brogdon, but lost Bojan Bogdanovic (four years, $73 million) to Utah.
- The Boston Celtics lost Irving and Horford, and got Kemba Walker (four years, $141 million).
- The Orlando Magic kept a good part of their core with Nikola Vucevic (four years, $100 million) and Terrence Ross (four years, $54 million).
- The New York Knicks, who had cleared enough cap space to sign two maximum-value players, got none. They did not make an offer to Durant, never had a chance at Irving and spent $63 million on a three-year deal with Julius Randle, prompting this unprecedented statement from president Steve Mills: “While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents.”
- One other ex-Raptor got a deal, as Jonas Valanciunas agreed to a three-year, $45-million contract to return to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps