Kawhi Leonard reportedly recruited Kyrie Irving in free agency

As he was during the season, Kawhi Leonard proved to be the big winner of free agency, brokering his power to assemble a title favorite with the Los Angeles Clippers while hamstringing the rival Lakers’ ability to secure talent on the open market.

But even as he bent the NBA to his will, the two-time NBA Finals MVP didn’t get everything he wanted.

Kawhi reportedly coveted Kyrie

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Leonard coveted Kyrie Irving in free agency and recruited the point guard to join him alongside Paul George in free agency.

Irving, of course, had already arranged with Kevin Durant to create their own power duo. They did so with the Brooklyn Nets in a plan that was apparently hatched months ago and was knowledge in NBA player circles as long ago as February — that is if you believe Bobby Portis.

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Kawhi Leonard and Paul George together
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Kawhi Leonard and Paul George together
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots while defended by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Rob Ferguson)
San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard (2) is defended by Indiana Pacers' Paul George (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Indianapolis. San Antonio defeated Indiana 110-106. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
SAN ANTONIO,TX - MARCH 1: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs takes the game winning shot against the Indiana Pacers as Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers watches at AT&T Center on March 1, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX - MARCH 1: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs hugs Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers at the end of the game at AT&T Center on March 1, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 22: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball as Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder defends during the second half of an NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on March 22, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Leonard had previously been linked to Durant in free agency as well, but it appears that the long-laid plans of Durant and Irving to join forces in Brooklyn were impenetrable to Leonard’s influence.

So he didn’t succeed in creating the NBA’s most imposing Big Three. But with that, he’s surely fine.

Leonard wielded influence on his terms

He can take solace in knowing that he’ll seek his third NBA title on his own terms on a hometown Clippers team he influenced to acquire George.

And he’ll do so having changed the power dynamic of the NBA after shunning LeBron James’ status as kingmaker with the Lakers and shifting the league from one dominated by a star-laden superteam to one that’s wide open for the first time in years, filled with multiple teams boasting a pair of superstars, but none claiming three.

Leonard could have easily joined the Lakers as the third piece of a readymade superteam that would have towered above the competition in terms of talent.

But that wasn’t his path. And fans of the NBA not wearing purple and gold are better off for it.

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Way-too-early 2020 NBA championship odds after free agency
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Way-too-early 2020 NBA championship odds after free agency

T-29. Cleveland Cavaliers: 2000/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 300/1

2018-19 record: 19-63

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

T-29. Charlotte Hornets: 2000/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 200/1

2018-19 record: 39-43

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

28. Washington Wizards: 1250/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 300/1

2018-19 record: 32-50

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

T-26. Phoenix Suns: 500/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 150/1

2018-19 record: 19-63

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

T-26. Memphis Grizzlies: 500/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 100/1

2018-19 record: 33-49

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

25. Detroit Pistons: 400/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 200/1

2018-19 record: 41-41

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

T-23. New York Knicks: 300/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 30/1 

2018-19 record: 17-65

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

T-23. Chicago Bulls: 300/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 150/1

2018-19 record: 22-60

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

22. Minnesota Timberwolves: 250/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 150/1

2018-19 record: 36-46

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

21. Atlanta Hawks: 200/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 100/1

2018-19 record: 29-53

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

20. Oklahoma City Thunder: 175/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 20/1

2018-19 record: 49-33

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)

19. New Orleans Pelicans: 150/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 60/1

2018-19 record: 33-49

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

18. Orlando Magic: 135/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 75/1

2018-19 record: 42-40

Via sportsbook.ag

(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

17. Sacramento Kings: 125/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 100/1

2018-19 record: 39-43

Via sportsbook.ag

(Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)

16. Toronto Raptors: 85/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 10/1

2018-19 record: 58-24

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

15. San Antonio Spurs: 70/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 60/1

2018-19 record: 48-34

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

14. Miami Heat: 60/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 200/1

2018-19 record: 39-43

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

13. Dallas Mavericks: 55/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 40/1

2018-19 record: 33-49

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

12. Indiana Pacers: 70/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 60/1

2018-19 record: 48-34

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

11. Brooklyn Nets: 70/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 30/1

2018-19 record: 42-40

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/John Locher)

10. Portland Trail Blazers: 35/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 30/1

2018-19 record: 53-29

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/John Leyba)

9. Boston Celtics: 30/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 15/1

2018-19 record: 49-33

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

T-5. Utah Jazz: 15/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 30/1

2018-19 record: 50-32

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

T-5. Houston Rockets: 15/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 10/1

2018-19 record: 53-29

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

T-5. Golden State Warriors: 15/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 15/1

2018-19 record: 57-25

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

T-5. Denver Nuggets: 15/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 20/1

2018-19 record: 54-28

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

4. Philadelphia 76ers: 10/1 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 10/1 

2018-19 record: 51-31

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

3. Milwaukee Bucks: 11/2 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 6/1

2018-19 record: 60-22

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

2. Los Angeles Lakers: 21/4 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 7/1 

2018-19 record: 37-45

Via sportsbook.ag

(AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

1. Los Angeles Clippers: 7/2 odds

Pre-free agency odds: 8/1

2018-19 record: 48-34

Via sportsbook.ag

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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