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Covering Kawhi Leonard’s Free Agency Has Been a Struggle In Separating News from Speculation

I might not have written as much about Kawhi Leonard’s free agency decision as you would like — or too much. Here’s why.

The Toronto Raptors Head To Wynn Las Vegas To Celebrate NBA Championship Win At XS Nightclub With Drake And The Chainsmokers Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for Wynn Las Vegas

In 2019, we as sports fans and media are constantly swamped with information, and it’s become incredibly difficult to see what is relevant, important, or new, and what is not. Making matters more difficult, there’s not some well-defined line that separates the important news from not. For example, take Chris Haynes’ article yesterday on Kawhi Leonard’s free agency. It is well-written, original, and almost certainly properly sourced. That clearly makes it a step above some Reddit commenter, or a Twitter account most famous for getting something right once a few years ago. But is it worth covering and reporting further on?

The phrase in the article which received the most attention was a line stating, “rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins on June 30, sources said”. This sounds like something, but it really isn’t. Rival executives might know something on the Kawhi situation, but they probably don’t have sources inside Kawhi’s camp (which has proven virtually impossible to crack), and most of their information is coming from other teams – including the Raptors themselves. That doesn’t strike me as game-changing news. There are also qualifiers thrown in, with words such as “view” and “favorite” softening any conclusion. This is because there’s nothing definitive to report, as of right now.

None of this is to take shots at Haynes, a good writer with plenty of well-connected sources around the league who’s certainly more plugged in to the situation than I am. He heard some things, he knew these things could generate the basis of a story that would receive a lot of attention, and he went ahead with it. There’s nothing intentionally misleading here, or fake use of sources, or anything along those lines. The report is, however, ultimately unfulfilling, as it doesn’t really state anything new. Everyone and their mother could have predicted Kawhi was going to decline his option, and it’s been said for weeks that the Raptors are right there with the Clippers for Kawhi’s services this summer, perhaps even slightly ahead. If that’s not “seriously considering”, I don’t know what is.

The problem is not with Haynes’ story, but that dozens just like it have surfaced every month over the past year. Every little detail that could have any impact on a free agent destination is now detailed and obsessed over. Who is liking whose pictures on Instagram, what executive just followed a player on Twitter, and where a certain player is spending their time after the NBA season are just some of the minutiae that are now treated as “news”. It’s possible that some of these throwaway references mean something. But it is impossible to KNOW, which leads to more speculation, and further articles, and so on. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that is showing no signs of slowing down, and might even be picking up steam.

The simple fact of the matter on the Kawhi Leonard situation is that we don’t know what his decision is. That’s probably because he, himself doesn’t know what he wants to do yet. And that’s fine! The whole point of free agency is for players to take those meetings, and figure out what they want to do with their future in the NBA. Kawhi, by all accounts, will take several meetings in free agency. Does he have a frontrunner in mind? Quite possibly. Will one or two of the meetings be less than serious on his end? Could be! But we don’t know, we can’t know, because Kawhi Leonard and his camp have not released any kind of information that would indicate any such thing.

The reason that I’ve been loath to write much about Kawhi (and KD, to a lesser extent) this season is because very little really seems to have changed, and not much new information has come to the fore. His winning a championship with the Raptors is the only tangible thing that happened in recent months that seems to have really swayed him – and that’s something that was easily predictable, without a single “sourced” report needed. Woj has been drumming the “Clippers are still in the lead, but Raptors are closing the gap” story for weeks, but it’s unclear if that’s based on any new information, or just an assumption on recent developments with prior information taken into account. To my knowledge, not a single report has come out stating that Kawhi Leonard, his agent, or family has shifted their thinking on any significant matter. Ultimately, that is the group that will collaborate on Kawhi’s choice, and their collective lips have been sealed.

Now, none of this means we won’t be covering Kawhi Leonard’s free agency here at Clips Nation. We have so far, and will continue to do so. Kawhi coming to the Clippers would be one of the biggest moments in the history of the franchise, and would give the Clippers a legitimate chance to win the NBA Championship next season. When legitimate news happens, or a meeting takes place, we will be on it. However, we won’t be covering every Instagram post, or soundbite, or report. It’s simply too much, and it would only serve to make real news harder to believe, and more difficult to see.