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NBA Free Agency July 5th Open Thread: The Kawhi Watch enters its surreal period

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The other deals, signings and transactions, have stopped. There are still players available, but nothing is happening. Everyone is just watching Kawhi with nothing real to report.

NBA: Toronto Raptors-Championship Parade Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the silence yesterday was definitely because of the July 4th holiday in America. If you look at the feeds of our usual NBA buzz men — Woj, Shams, Haynes — there’s either little activity or absolutely none. Everyone took the day off, as well they should. Of course, this courtesy must also be extended to Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors’ superstar, Finals MVP, and 2019 NBA champion. He deserves a break too.

Unfortunately for the rest of us — particularly us Canadians — there is no relief. There is still no real Kawhi update, even as people keep popping out of the woodwork (Cris Carter becoming my new favourite character in the saga) to tell us what we should think and feel about the situation. As a result, the sense of tension, while still present, is stretching out and becoming something more surreal. Where else is there to go with all of this?

In the Lakers’ and Clippers’ camps, there is cause for at least some optimism — but there is also a lot of desperation. Just skim Clips Nation or Silver Screen and Roll to see what I mean.

For their part, the Clippers have to feel like their in third place now. There is no second star coming any time soon (unless somehow they managed to make a trade for Bradley Beal). They have to pitch Kawhi purely on having a few nice young players (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, Montrezl Harrell), and some organizational strength (I guess Jerry West’s presence still supplies that). I happen to think they’re a completely swagless team, what with Lawrence Frank’s absurd years-long stalking mission, and Steve Ballmer’s goofy sweatiness. But maybe their enthusiasm counts for something.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have more historical capital to spend, even if their franchise has been bad for almost a decade and is clearly run by a cabal of exceptionally clueless rich people. Yes, all owners are rich, but not all of them are so willing to publicly flaunt their epic confusion as to how basketball teams are supposed to run. The fact that Magic Johnson is still somehow involved in the recruiting process, despite quitting the organization after some sort of power struggle, says all you need to know about the acumen on the other side of the table. Sure, playing aside LeBron James and Anthony Davis helps, but it always, always comes back to management. Sorry.

And then there are the Raptors. Nothing has come out from that organization. No news. No updates. No rumours. Masai Ujiri continues to be tight-lipped and ruthless in his effectiveness. Yes, there was the whole “L’affaire Plane Watch”, but that had nothing to do with what the Raptors were up to. They didn’t order the helicopters in the air, nor summon all those people to the Hazelton Hotel. They just met with Kawhi, made their pitch, and wished him well on his day off. No leaks at all came afterwards.

Will a decision come today from Kawhi? My feeling right now: no, it won’t. But the Raptors, in my mind, are also still in front, can still offer the most compelling deal, the best team, the most comfortable situation. (They have also shown an ability to keep quiet about it.) We may well be flying now through clouds of insane speculation, empty hope and useless guesses, ideas based on sources based on whims based on moods in the air (e.g. based on nothing), but we can still count on that.

If nothing else happens today, we can still know that. And now, we just continue to watch.