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Why are the Clippers still in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes?

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We have that and more in Friday’s NBA newsletter.

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard has still not made a free agent decision, or at least he has not shared that decision with anyone who will share it with us. Jabari Young, who covered Kawhi as a San Antonio Spur, reports that we could have a few more days of waiting. It’s only July 4. Be patient. It will happen eventually.

The question I have is why the Clippers are still in the mix. The answer, although pure speculation, speaks to the idiosyncrasies of Kawhi.

The legacy play is to remain in Toronto, compete for one or two more championships (including having the inside track on a repeat, which is something done by only a few teams this century). The Raptors were a perfect host to Kawhi’s genius in 2018-19, and he seems to like everyone involved. Staying in Toronto makes sense.

The superteam play is to join the Lakers, obviously. The Lakers are the only team that can still become overwhelming title favorites this postseason, barring a lopsided trade for a second-tier contender. By picking the Lakers, Kawhi doesn’t exactly guarantee himself another championship — a third overall, on three different teams, which is wild, shouts to Robert Horry and John Salley — but it’s as close to a guarantee as possible.

What would the Clippers signify? Kawhi would be the team’s best player by far. LA’s supporting cast is worse than that of the Raptors. The team is in Los Angeles, which has favor with Leonard, but so are the Lakers. The Clippers aren’t an obvious championship contender even with Kawhi, unless they do other things as well. The Clippers are his option with the lowest championship potential. If Kawhi picks the Clippers, what does it mean about him and his priorities?

But then what do we know about Kawhi and his priorities? In that way, picking the most idiosyncratic candidate would be pretty on the nose for Kawhi. And now we’re back where we started.

How gracious!

While we’re talking about the Clippers, we have to talk about LA guaranteeing Lou Williams’ 2020-21 team option season as a heroic gesture. Shams tweeted: “In a rare gesture rewarding Lou Williams’ play and leadership, the Los Angeles Clippers and Sixth Man of the Year have agreed to completely guarantee his $8M salary for 2020-21 a full season ahead, agent Wallace Prather told @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.” Lou has vastly outplayed his contract. His agent should frankly be trying not to remind everyone how below-market that contract is. But the idea that this is a generous “reward” the Clippers are giving Williams by guaranteeing the deal now is absurd. Barring a major injury, Lou will be well worth that $8 million.

If anything, the Clips should be “sheepishly” guaranteeing the contract now, apologizing for taking his agent’s lunch money when it was negotiated. That’d be a rare gesture: the Clips could say, “sorry, Lou, we’re going to ensure you’re paid below market for an additional year.” A real reward would be to tell Williams they will work out a contract extension the minute he is eligible.

Links

An ode to Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtic.

Updated winners and losers from free agency.

The Lakers got Jared Dudley.

Jake Layman to the Wolves in a sign and trade. Minnesota picked up Jordan Bell, too.

How Chiney Ogwumike played in a WNBA game and was on TV breaking down NBA free agency four hours later.

Chandler Parsons to the Hawks, Solomon Hill and Miles Plumlee to the Grizzlies -- this trade is now officially the saddest transaction of the year.

The Suns gave up on Josh Jackson (probably for the best) and De’Andre Melton plus two seconds for Kyle Korver (who will be bought out) and Jevon Carter.

The Knicks are now spinning that they didn’t actually want Kawhi bad enough to potentially miss out on signing, uh, Taj Gibson and Julius Randle.

The Washington Mystics are heads, shoulders, knees, and toes above the rest of the WNBA.

Good piece in The Athletic on what the Warriors will miss without Andre Iguodala. The Grizzlies sound like they are going to try to trade Iguodala for another asset instead of waiving him.

Chris Herring gives the Bulls’ offseason a positive review.

Are the Sixers too big to succeed?

And finally: Dwyane Wade is retired but you really, really should not try to stunt on him.

Be excellent to each other.