The first “day” of NBA free agency 2019 was a depraved feeding frenzy. Within eight hours nearly everything edible had flown off the table, and even some borderline fare, too. Michael Jordan dug into a lukewarm plate of Terry Rozier at a market price of $58 million—sickening. And yet the most prized morsel of all seemed off the menu. How do you ship in a Kawhi Leonard? Do you just have to wait for it to swim up and find you?
All this action, and the reigning Finals MVP is moving in slow motion, probably enjoying a couple hours of Mikan drill, a balanced meal, a deeply responsible amount of sleep. He’s all packed up and he’s scratched his baseball itch for the calendar year. Now he is ready to listen. The greatest free agent alive is the only one who seems to be actually be entertaining offers in real time, instead of instantly manifesting an Adrian Wojnarowski tweet draft the moment the clock struck 6:00 p.m. Kawhi Leonard is in no rush, even if you are.
This is especially funny because so many future decisions for so many billionaires hinge on his. While he does his adorable and antiquated thing, the pool of potential Lakers targets continues to thin out. While teams like the Nets and Sixers load up to capacity, it’s still just LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the center of a gaping void. Lesser superstars are getting settled in Boston and Miami. Affordable shooters are finding new homes. Old veterans are raking in sums that Rob Pelinka couldn’t afford. Sure, there’s always a buyout for (former Pelinka client) Andre Iguodala looming ahead; there’s J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony on minimums to provide LeBron some companionship and/or chucking. But Pelinka is trapped in in an ungodly game of chicken right now. If his reward is not Kawhi, it might be bleak.
And maybe it is Kawhi. Toronto’s hero had a phone call with recent Lakers employee Magic Johnson on Sunday night, and it was reportedly “positive,” which is perhaps just a way to say it contained several dozen instances of “Wow!” and “Look at that!” As the L.A. Times’s Broderick Turner laid out, he was full of questions for his potential suitor. Kawhi wanted to know if the Lakers had made a sincere effort to take him off the Spurs hands. Kawhi’s uncle Dennis wanted to know if front office was as dysfunctional as it looks from the outside, which is a funny question to ask the guy who publicly resigned without telling anyone. Kawhi wanted to know if he could bring in his own medical and training staff just like LeBron did, because his health and upkeep has clearly been a sticking point in the past. Kawhi Leonard is asking careful questions and listening carefully to the answers, like he didn’t just see the whole universe rearrange itself.
On one slightly deranged line of thought the Lakers must be getting Kawhi, because this is too busted a course of action to make sense of otherwise. So book it now: Kawhi Leonard is sliding into purple-and-yellow, completing what may well be the best trio of NBA talent ever. Or—he’s just bleeding out the Lakers’ options to surround the scariest two-man combination in the league, neutering them the best he can before he signs next door with the Clippers, who still have plenty of cap space to play with. Or maybe he’s just in the middle of a really good audiobook, and can you just give him some time? Goddamn.