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Kawhi Leonard-Jerry West controversy, explained: Why Clippers star’s free agency is subject of investigation

It appears apparent now why Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers final yr. Los Angeles gave the two-time Finals MVP a possibility to proceed competing for championships whereas taking part in nearer to residence, and he maintained monetary flexibility by agreeing to a three-year, $103 million take care of a participant possibility for the 2021-22 season.

On the time of his free company, although, Leonard selecting the Clippers was removed from a certainty. The famously non-public famous person supplied no indications about his emotions towards the Clippers, Lakers, Raptors or every other group. There have been day by day rumors and questions concerning the Leonard sweepstakes till the Clippers lastly secured him and then-Thunder ahead Paul George through a commerce with Oklahoma Metropolis.

That loopy course of is again within the information after a person who claims to be near Leonard just lately filed a lawsuit in opposition to the Clippers and group guide Jerry West, based on a TMZ Sports report. Johnny Wilkes says he’s owed a whopping $2.5 million for serving to the Clippers land Leonard.

Here is what we find out about these allegations, and the way the Clippers and NBA have reacted:

MORE: NBA predictions for 2020-21 season, including Finals picks

Who’s Johnny Wilkes, and why did he file a lawsuit in opposition to the Clippers?

Wilkes, 58, performed basketball with Leonard’s uncle Dennis Robertson at Dorsey Excessive Faculty in Los Angeles. The lawsuit claims Wilkes is Robertson’s “greatest pal” and that he used his relationships with Leonard and Robertson to help the Clippers of their pursuit of Leonard.

In response to the lawsuit, Wilkes advised West he may present key data to the Clippers, and Wilkes claims West agreed to pay him $2.5 million for his help. Wilkes says he burdened the significance of buying George with a purpose to safe Leonard’s dedication, helped join West with Robertson and defined how the group ought to pitch Leonard at a July 2019 assembly.

“This data was important as a result of it was the precise data Kawhi Leonard needed to listen to on the time with a purpose to effectuate his signing with the Clippers,” Wilkes stated within the lawsuit, per TMZ Sports.

Moreover, Wilkes alleges he facilitated a deal through which West would give Robertson a home in Southern California and a journey expense account.

Wilkes is now searching for $2.5 million plus damages.

How have Kawhi Leonard, Jerry West and the Clippers responded?

Leonard, West and the Clippers every addressed the controversy in separate statements previous to the beginning of the 2020-21 NBA common season.

— “That has nothing to do with me, swaying my thoughts to go someplace,” Leonard stated. “I am from LA, and I grew up right here my complete life, and out right here folks attempt to discover any technique to get some cash. So, he in all probability will not be the final. I do know lots of people out right here.”

— “I’m not conscious of any lawsuit being filed in opposition to me and I deny partaking in any improper conduct in reference to the signing of Kawhi Leonard,” a consultant for West advised TMZ Sports.

— “The lawsuit filed by Johnny Wilkes is replete with inaccuracies and the allegations are baseless,” the Clippers stated in a statement. “The Clippers are absolutely cooperating with the NBA in its investigation, which is customary when most of these allegations are made. They’re offering the NBA with proof that the allegations are false.”

How is the NBA dealing with Johnny Wilkes’ allegations?

When requested by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith concerning the NBA’s investigation into Wilkes’ claims, commissioner Adam Silver did not provide any definitive updates. However it appears unlikely the Clippers shall be punished primarily based on what the league at present is aware of.

“All I can say there may be everyone seems to be entitled to the presumption of harmless,” Silver stated. “Clearly, somebody who just isn’t recognized to me or the league workplace has made an allegation in opposition to the group. So, we’ll look into it. It is our obligation on behalf of all 30 groups that, if one thing involves our consideration, we glance into it and we see if there’s something there.

“I’ve no cause to imagine, primarily based on what’s been alleged up to now, that there is something inappropriate that happened. However that is why we comply with up on no matter leads come to the league workplace.”

An NBA lawyer says the league has obtained a duplicate of the criticism however burdened at this level these are “just allegations.”

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