TORONTO/LOS ANGELES (UPI) — Toronto Raptors superstar forward Kawhi Leonard has requested a meeting with Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson as free agency nears, league sources told ESPN and the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
Leonard made a personal request that only Buss and Johnson would be involved in the meeting, according to ESPN. Lakers superstar LeBron James and soon-to-be teammate Anthony Davis also are expected to be part of the formal pitch, league sources told The Athletic.
Despite Leonard’s request to meet with Johnson, NBA rules don’t allow him to be directly involved in official team meetings with potential free agents. Johnson said he hadn’t been asked by the Lakers or Buss to participate in the pitch, but will help the franchise in free agency in any way he can, according to ESPN.
“A friend of mine called and says Kawhi wants to meet with you,” Johnson said. “I said no problem. I’m available if that’s what this man wants.”
Johnson unexpectedly resigned from his position with the Lakers in April.
“I got a great life,” Johnson said. “I’m not trying to mess with anybody’s job.”
League sources told Yahoo Sports that Leonard decided to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Raptors, making the star forward an unrestricted free agent. The Lakers created a max salary slot to pursue a high-level free agent after including the Washington Wizards in Los Angeles’ pending trade with the New Orleans Pelicans for Davis.
Leonard is expected to allow the Raptors to make the final pitch among the teams that will meet with him in Los Angeles next week, according to ESPN. Along with the Lakers and Raptors, the Los Angeles Clippers also are vying for his services.
Leonard guided the Raptors to the franchise’s first NBA championship in his first season with the team following a trade between Toronto and the San Antonio Spurs last summer. He was named NBA Finals MVP after beating the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Reporting by Connor Grott
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