Report: Kawhi Leonard’s alleged free agency requests may have violated CBA

Chase Kell

When the dust had settled following Kawhi Leonard’s decision to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Raptors felt as if they had been played.

Sure, Toronto was eager to keep the two-time Finals MVP north of the border, and Leonard appeared to be interested in the same thing. But the reported list of outrageous demands from Leonard’s camp made the Raptors feel as if Kawhi wasn’t all that interested in returning to Canada — or, even worse, that the Raptors were being used as leverage.

Weeks after Kawhi chose to sign with the Clippers, we’re beginning to learn a bit more about the lofty demands allegedly coming from Leonard’s camp.

Or, to be specific, Kawhi’s famous uncle Dennis Robertson.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith touched on the subject this week on First Take, sharing some insight into what he’s heard about uncle Dennis’s negotiation process.

“This is me putting on my reporter’s hat here. People in NBA circles are talking about this right now. Allegedly, the uncle, Uncle Dennis, was asking for a lot of stuff from the other teams. Houses, planes, sponsorship, guaranteed sponsorship money, just as an example. They’re throwing this stuff out there. All of those things are supposedly illegal in the collective bargaining agreement.”

While Stephen A.’s comments largely appear to be conjecture, the idea that the Clippers could have broken league rules while recruiting Kawhi is certainly interesting.

The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement does not allow teams to grant such benefits to players — in fact, teams are prohibited from arranging sponsorship deals for a player as it’s considered a form of salary-cap circumvention.

The Clippers were actually caught breaking this rule in 2015, when the NBA laid a $250,000 fine on the organization for offering “unauthorized business or investment opportunities” during negotiations with then-free agent DeAndre Jordan.

We can’t be certain that the Clippers have broken any rules with Kawhi, but this certainly raises questions about how the team went about recruiting the superstar.

Judging by the Paul George trade alone, we know that the Clippers were willing to pull out all the stops in order to land Leonard. The team also reportedly kicked the tires on acquiring his signature “The Klaw” logo from Nike as a gift during negotiations, but that didn’t go down (Leonard is now locked into a legal battle with his former sponsor over the origin of the logo).

At the end of the day, Leonard did what many expected him to do, taking his talents to L.A. after a one-and-done championship season in Toronto. But there’s no denying that the decision, as well as the subsequent leaks about how it came to be, have become the talk of the NBA.

As of now, there’s no word on whether the NBA is planning to investigate Kawhi’s dealings with the Clippers.

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