Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers have found themselves in the midst of a messy recruitment scandal.
Earlier this week, a man named Johnny Wilkes filed a lawsuit accusing Clippers executive Jerry West of not paying him the $2.5 million he was promised for his role in helping bring Leonard to his current locale.
In the lawsuit, Wilkes alleged that multiple improprieties occurred in the process of Leonard’s recruitment by the Clippers. His claims prompted the NBA to launch a full investigation on Thursday.
Late Thursday evening, Leonard responded to the accusations levied against him and the Clippers.
“That has nothing to do with me swaying my mind to go somewhere,” Leonard said of the purported benefits he was offered.
“I’m from LA and I grew up here my whole life and out here people try to find any way to get some money, so he probably won’t be the last. I know a lot of people out here.”
In Wilkes’ lawsuit it is alleged that West and Wilkes met on April 10, 2019 inside Staples Center. The pair later spoke on June 28, right before free agency commenced.
During the latter conversation, West is said to have requested Wilkes’ assistance, per the lawsuit, which describes Wilkes as “the best friend to Kawhi Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson.”
This leaked Jerry West audio could be really bad for the Clippers. https://t.co/p2mAVXGgmh
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 18, 2020
The lawsuit notes that Wilkes relayed to West that the Clippers should include four particular pieces of information in their free agency pitch to Leonard: that the two-time Finals MVP would have a “great life as a Clipper,” that the team “possessed a great deal of upside and would be around for years to come,” that the franchise would “do whatever it takes to compete with the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James,” and that it would add a second star, who wound up being Paul George.
The lawsuit states that on July 4, Wilkes told Robertson that if Leonard signed with the Clippers, Robertson would get a house in Southern California, a travel expense account and that team owner Steve Ballmer would fund a marketing campaign for Leonard worth $100 million.
One day later, Leonard signed with the Clippers.
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 17, 2020
For what it’s worth, the Clippers vehemently deny any wrongdoing.
“The lawsuit filed by Johnny Wilkes is replete with inaccuracies and the allegations are baseless,” the Clippers said in a statement.
“The Clippers are fully cooperating with the NBA in its investigation, which is standard when these types of allegations are made. They are providing the NBA with evidence that the allegations are false.”
Yikes Shaq. https://t.co/CBPHOixGJt
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 15, 2020
At the moment, the Clippers and Leonard are standing by their story that nothing nefarious occurred.
What will the NBA investigation uncover?
Time will tell.