LA Clippers consultant Jerry West helped the franchise pull off a coup for the ages during the summer of 2019. The Clippers not only signed Kawhi Leonard in free agency, but the team acquired Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a blockbuster trade as well.
Even though the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead in the second round of the 2020 playoffs to the Denver Nuggets, the team is set up for success for the next couple of years with Leonard and George in the mix. West, one of the best players in Los Angeles Lakers franchise history, was able to steal Leonard away from the Purple and Gold, who pursued the two-time Finals MVP heavily in free agency.
However, Jerry West and the Clippers are currently in hot water for their Kawhi Leonard pursuit in 2019, as a man by the name of Johnny Wilkes has filed a lawsuit against West. Wilkes claims the Clippers executive agreed to pay him $2.5 million to help bring Leonard to the Clippers and a new troubling layer has been added to the investigation.
Jerry West sold Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers’ new culture
The Clippers have never played in the NBA Finals. Heck, the franchise hasn’t even advanced to the conference finals. However, Jerry West was able to sell Kawhi Leonard on the team’s new culture with him serving as a lead consultant.
In 2017, West left the Golden State Warriors for the Clippers. The Hall of Famer was eager to help turn the LAC franchise into championship contenders as his next challenge in life. He had a championship-level coach in Doc Rivers on the bench and created cap space by urging the front office to trade Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons during the 2017-18 season.
Tobias Harris was acquired by the Clippers in the Griffin trade. However, West and Co. traded Harris to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2018-19 to create even more cap flexibility for the summer of 2019. Everyone knew all the moves the Clippers were making were to sign a superstar player in free agency and West’s actions paid off.
Kawhi Leonard played mind games with Jerry West’s old team in free agency
The Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, recruited Kawhi Leonard in 2019. However, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year played mind games with the Lakers and wound up spurning them for the Clippers.
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Leonard switched up meeting locations with the Lakers to throw them off. While the Lakers were trying to figure out where to meet Leonard, the All-Star was busy talking to Paul George instead. It was an incredible move by Leonard, who never planned to sign with the Lakers since he didn’t want to play behind James and Davis.
Leonard averaged 27.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game in his first season with the Clippers. LAC went 2-2 against the Lakers in the regular season and all signs pointed toward the two LA teams meeting in the 2020 Western Conference Finals.
However, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers choked against the Nuggets and became the laughingstock of the NBA. The Lakers, meanwhile, took care of business and won the 2020 title over the Miami Heat in six games for James’ fourth championship and fourth Finals MVP.
West left a damaging voicemail that could haunt the Clippers
The man suing Jerry West and the Clippers says the NBA icon left him a voicemail in 2019 where he thanked him for his help in the Kawhi Leonard recruitment. In the voicemail, West calls the Lakers a “sh*t show” and claims he wants to take Johnny Wilkes out to dinner for all of his efforts.
“Hey there, this is Jerry calling. I really want to thank you a lot for trying to help. I heard this morning that everyone over in the Lakers camp thinks they’re gonna get him. I just find it hard to believe that he would want to go to that sh*t show where he wouldn’t even get his name in the paper and he wouldn’t be the face of the franchise,” West allegedly said in the voicemail, via TMZ. “I will keep you apprised of what’s going on. But, I do want to get together with you privately and would love to take you to dinner and even Sam if he’s around so I can at least pay my respects to you guys for being so generous and helpful. Take care, talk to you sometime soon. Bye-bye.”
Kawhi Leonard told reporters on Thursday that he signed with the team without the help of any outside sources. The NBA is currently investigating Jerry West and the Clippers and this voicemail could potentially be a key piece of evidence that comes back to haunt LAC.