Kawhi Leonard dynamited what remained of the premise of the Executive of the Year Award, and in doing so redefined the meaning of such staples as: the Friday night news dump; the value of holding onto non-human playing assets; and even patriotism. Now if that’s not a full day’s work for an adult-sized person, that concept is gone as well.
In thinking of, driving, and then benefiting from the deal that put him in Los Angeles, Leonard carefully planned and kept secret from the often-cited-but-rarely-correct Sources Who Say a deal so eye-watering that it shames the ones already provided us in this maniacal offseason. Indeed, he almost managed to derail one of the others by reaching out to Kevin Durant days before he honored his word to Kyrie Irving to see if he’d like to be a Los Angeles Clipper instead of a Brooklyn Net.
This would suggest that Leonard had decided on the Clippers before he was sure to go to the Lakers or sure to stay with the Toronto Raptors according to Sources Who Say. But for the man who keeps his cards nailgunned to his chest at all times, secrecy prevailed. It helped that Durant is not a chatterbox either, but we’re still talking at least a week of radio silence, which shows yet again that the player who knows how to keep quiet when all around him are firing out specubombs wins the day.
Indeed, getting Paul George to ask out of Oklahoma City meant widening the circle of trust because George needed Thunder general manager Sam Presti as well as the Clippers to keep their yaps slapped shut as well. The Clippers needed to keep most of their players but in assembling a string of first-round draft choices and either moving or swapping them, they made Presti happy, who in turn made George happy, who in turn made Leonard happy. The trade will play out the way it plays out, but as a bit of human architecture with a side of “ain’t nobody’s business but my own,” Leonard guaranteed himself Executive of the Year votes, maybe enough to convince Adam Silver to expand the parameters of the award.
In the days to come, you will read alternate versions of the essential story because that’s how a story keeps its legs. You will read how not getting Leonard could help the Lakers (though God only knows how). You will read how the Raptors can bounce back from this (though that will be years in the doing). You will read how first-round draft picks don’t have to be picked to be used (which will be interpreted as a shot at the Celtics and Danny Ainge’s asset-protection fetish), and you will even read, mostly in the New York Daily News, how all the big-city teams got richer this summer except the Knicks because the Knicks are totally Knicked.
But what we know now is sufficient. Kawhi Leonard ran the league for a couple of weeks without letting on that he was, not even to Silver. He nearly changed Kevin Durant’s mind, he did change Paul George’s, he got two general managers to change their team’s fortunes in a heartbeat and even managed to leave a country in the lurch without making any one of them feel bad about the process. He beat the Anthony Davis deal, he swallowed the Durant-Irving deal, he faced down Zion’s first summer league. He is not a being with which one trifles.
Plus, though I can’t prove it yet, he even caused not one but two earthquakes to help provide sufficient misdirection to give him the best moment to spring all of it on us—“Look at your swimming pool’s tsunami, watch your dogs run around eating their tails, start babbling incoherently about the apocalypse and an angry god, then fall asleep. Then and only then will I reveal my plan, without sources saying a damned thing.”
So maybe Executive of the Year is actually not sufficient. He not only reordered the league but broke the leaking apparatus for dozens of journalists, and put a javelin in the gizzard of Sources Say, at least for awhile. The only survivors are the few pundits who had the good sense to say through the process, “I know little, so I will presume less.”
Ray Ratto has decided to do the prudent thing and bow to our new galactic overlord, holiday weekend be damned.