It now seems obvious why Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers last year. Los Angeles gave the two-time Finals MVP the opportunity to continue competing for the championships while playing closer to home, and he maintained his financial flexibility by agreeing to a $ 103 million contract over three. years old with a player option for the 2021-22 season.
At the time of his free agency, however, the Clippers’ choice was far from certain. The famous private superstar has given no indication of his feelings towards the Clippers, Lakers, Raptors or any other team. There were rumors and daily questions about the Leonard draw until the Clippers finally secured him and Thunder forward Paul George via a trade with Oklahoma City.
This crazy process is back in the news after a man who claims to be close to Leonard recently filed a lawsuit against the Clippers and team consultant Jerry West, according to a TMZ Sports Report. Johnny Wilkes says he is owed $ 2.5 million for helping the Clippers land Leonard.
Here’s what we know about these allegations and how the Clippers and the NBA responded:
Who is Johnny Wilkes and why did he take legal action against the Clippers?
Wilkes, 58, played basketball with Leonard’s uncle Dennis Robertson at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. The lawsuit claims Wilkes is Robertson’s “best friend” and that he used his connections with Leonard and Robertson to aid the Clippers in their pursuit of Leonard.
According to the lawsuit, Wilkes told West he could provide key information to the Clippers, and Wilkes claims West agreed to pay him $ 2.5 million for his help. Wilkes says he emphasized the importance of acquiring George in order to secure Leonard’s engagement, helped connect West with Robertson, and explained how the team should present Leonard at a July 2019 reunion.
“This information was vital because it was the exact information Kawhi Leonard wanted to hear at the time in order to effect his signing with the Clippers,” Wilkes said in the lawsuit, by TMZ Sports.
Additionally, Wilkes alleges he facilitated a deal in which West would give Robertson a house in Southern California and a travel expense account.
Wilkes is now asking for $ 2.5 million plus damages.
How did Kawhi Leonard, Jerry West and the Clippers react?
Leonard, West and the Clippers each addressed the controversy in separate statements ahead of the 2020-21 NBA season.
– “It has nothing to do with me, pushing me to go somewhere,” Leonard said. “I’m from Los Angeles, and I’ve grown up here all my life, and here people are trying to find a way to make money. So he probably won’t be the last. I know a lot of people here. “
“Not at all. It has nothing to do with coming here … I’m from Los Angeles. I’ve grown up here all my life. Here people are trying to find a way to get money. “It probably won’t be the last. I know a lot of people here.”
Kawhi Leonard puts an end to Johnny Wilkes rumors. pic.twitter.com/mg0sxlRXfa
– Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) December 18, 2020
– “I am not aware of any lawsuits brought against me and I deny any improper conduct in connection with the signing of Kawhi Leonard,” said a representative for West TMZ Sports.
– “The lawsuit brought by Johnny Wilkes is full of inaccuracies and the allegations are baseless,” said the Clippers. in a report. “The Clippers are fully cooperating with the NBA in their investigation, which is normal when these types of allegations are made. They are providing the NBA with evidence that the allegations are false.”
How does the NBA deal with Johnny Wilkes’ allegations?
When asked by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith about the NBA’s investigation into Wilkes’ allegations, Commissioner Adam Silver offered no definitive update. But it seems unlikely that the Clippers will be punished based on what the league currently knows.
“All I can say is everyone has a right to the presumption of innocence,” said Silver. “Obviously, someone that I don’t know or that the league office has made an allegation against the team. So we’ll look into it. It’s our obligation on behalf of the 30 teams that if something comes to our attention, we look in it and see if there’s something there.
“I have no reason to believe, based on what has been alleged so far, that there is anything inappropriate that has happened. But that is why we are following all leads. arriving at the league office. “
An NBA lawyer said the league received a copy of the complaint, but stressed at this point “just allegations.”