Kawhi Leonard to Lakers must happen

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Put up electronic billboards in a few different parts of the city that read, “We Want Kawhi.” Spectrum SportsNet should try to persuade Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard to ink an unprecedented, TV mega-deal. When he enters this summer’s free agency, LeBron James has to sell Leonard on a future with a historic franchise in L.A., where he wants to play.

The Lakers dream is not completely dead. These days it might seem far-fetched, but never say never. Not wanting to play with James, the Clippers are looking more and more like Leonard’s preferred destination. Not wanting the pressure of being the main star, he’s intrigued by the promise of the well-run Clippers.

If true, he wouldn’t completely rule out joining a franchise in the same market as the Lakers. The Los Angeles native wants to return to his old roots. At least that’s what was understood after growing increasingly frustrated with the organization. Leonard was unhappy with the Spurs’ handling of his injury, he detached himself from the team, then he requested a trade out of San Antonio.

Last season, he originally wanted to come back home and put on the purple and gold jersey. But in the offseason, the Spurs ended up giving him what he wanted and sent him across the country and out of the country to Toronto, in a stunning blockbuster trade. It wasn’t a team or city he could see himself playing in, but he found a home there at least temporarily, escaped from our homeland to feel at peace, adapted well to a metropolitan city and got into a situation that was a better fit.

As a Raptor, he has been a big-time player and brings a work ethic to the court akin to Lakers ex-star Kobe Bryant. And furthermore, he provides a pulsating crush of energy that the Lakers have cried out for since Kobe ended his career. The noise you’re hearing in L.A. all the way from North of the Border resembles the heavy roar of a brave lion. From the start, Leonard has been hunting to catch his prey and he’s making ferociously the loudest sound in the playoffs.

The Lakers, on the other hand, are making quite a rumpus while stretched out on the couch at home watching Leonard’s dazzling shooting display. Yet the Lakers, devoid of a  scorer as fierce as Kawhi, even with James on their roster, must re-emerged as buyers this summer. Whether the Raptors win a championship this year or not, Leonard has made a strong impression so far in these playoffs.

In terms of skill set and athleticism, Leonard is Kobe 2.0 and that’s not even saying he’s better than the Black Mamba. And, to be clear, he’s nowhere in the same league but he plays and produces at a similar rate. There’s no more Bryant, so therefore the Lakers have to plan for their next step. They have to vigorously pursue Leonard, even if landing him is a longshot.

While there won’t be another Kobe, a contingent of Lakers fans would like to believe Leonard’s game could match that of Bryant’s if the dream becomes a reality. In the modern NBA, the Lakers need to find outside shooting help to even have a chance.

Leonard, the soon-to-be free agent, has turned into an elite 3-point shooter. Then, on the other end of the floor, he takes the ball from you and forces turnovers with his quick and really big hands. His positional versatility as an elite defender puts him in a different class, and he owns the distinction of being the best two-way player in today’s game.

It’s not a virtual lock that he would end up with the Lakers when the All-Star forward hits the market. But they are potentially sleepers in this year’s free agency, with glaring issues they need to work on. It would be a big victory if the Lakers sign Leonard to a four-year, max contract.

If Leonard’s heart is set on Los Angeles, there’s also the Clippers and, if he leaves Toronto for the West Coast, it’s very likely the Lakers could lose out. This has prompted speculation over his future, leaving many questions unanswered with everyone curious to know where he decides to play next season.

Most obvious, perhaps, is that the Lakers have a messier situation and endures a great deal of drama. They want another shot-making star to elevate their brand and renew championship aspirations. Kawhi to the Lakers has to happen. It must happen. It really has to happen. No joke.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who is inexperienced in an executive role, faces the daunting task of making a sale pitch to Leonard. Jerry West, the same man who once built the Lakers, went on to become the Clippers’ trusted voice. The first order of business for him is positioning the team properly for the future to hopefully target and sign Leonard. It does seem, though, that it’s a team with a brighter future and higher ceiling. But the Lakers, in contrast to the Clippers, are wholly dysfunctional and have backpedaled.

For Leonard, it may just be that he wouldn’t feel quite comfortable to join James in L.A. That all changed, however, when the ex-Cleveland superstar showed up and signed with the Lakers.

Before long, Leonard has had little or no interest in playing alongside the environment James created. As the Lakers spiraled downward, the Clippers emerged as favorites to sign Leonard. But the Lakers, although they may not have the best odds, could try their luck to see if they can make something happen.

If they pull off a surprise victory in free agency, Leonard would be the most monumental free-agent signing. We won’t know until the summer when he’ll be free to move around the country and take his talents to a big city—maybe near you. Keep your fingers crossed.

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