LOS ANGELES - NBA fans and reporters weren’t the only ones waiting eagerly for Kawhi Leonard to make his decision on where he would sign. Danny Green suspended his free agency as he waited for Leonard to make his choice.
"Those five days seemed like five months," Green said. "And each day that went by, I checked in with ’Whi and I’m like, ’Yo, what’s going on with your meeting?’ ’I have a meeting tomorrow.’ So, (it was) like, ’Tomorrow? So I have to wait another day?’ You think a day, it goes by pretty fast but the way it was happening, the way I was talking to him, you would think it was a week. Like, ’I got to wait another day, dude? Like, come on!’"
Leonard agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers on July 5, and moments after the news broke just before midnight, Green had an agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers to sign for two years and $15 million. The two of them won a championship together less than one month before, and now will be crosstown rivals.
Green, a 32-year-old shooting guard and a native of North Babylon, would have loved for the Raptors to return their core and try to repeat as champions. But with Leonard gone that wasn’t possible, and even if Leonard returned to the Raptors, Green isn’t certain Toronto would have had space for him.
"So you go to the next-best team you think in the league is and that was here," Green said of agreeing to terms with the Lakers. "Just with the foundation, they only had three players on the roster at the time, but those three players are pretty damn good and you know with those three you can build something special."
The Lakers have been open about their championship aspirations, and to do it they’ll have to mesh quickly with many new players. Green has experience with that. He and Leonard were traded together from San Antonio to Toronto just last summer.
Although Green stayed in contact with Leonard about his schedule, Leonard never gave Green any updates about which way he was leaning. Green had an inkling that Leonard would want to go his own route rather than join a team that already had two superstars. He figured Leonard would wind up with either the Raptors or the Clippers.
When word leaked that Paul George had been traded to the Clippers, Green was just as shocked as everyone else.
"The Paul George thing was a total shock," Green said. "I had brief conversations with them after it, they think they got lucky with it."
He hopes that this will jump-start a rivalry between the Lakers and Clippers, and perhaps lead to a playoff series between the teams.
"Both teams are very good on paper, we have to see how it’s put together," Green said. "I think it’ll be something that’s going to grow into something, hopefully something, that’s unbelievable for the fans to watch."
Quinn Cook grew up in Washington but was raised by a father who loved the Showtime Lakers, so when Golden State rescinded its qualifying offer to the restricted free agent, it was a fortuitous turn in some way.
"I had some teams reach out and the Lakers thing came about and it was just perfect," said Cook, a 26-year-old point guard in his fourth NBA season. "Our talks went great, everything went how it was supposed to and we got it done."
Cook gained acclaim during the 2017-18 season when he took over as the Golden State Warriors’ starting point guard for Stephen Curry.
"When Steph went out the year we won it, I finished the last 20 games starting and think I averaged like 18 points or something," Cook said. "Just to play at a high level, I got to play in the playoffs at a high level and contribute. That just did a lot for my confidence. Obviously this year I had some good showings in the playoffs and I had a pretty good season."
Now Cook is playing for the team he rooted for as a kid.
"When I was born that’s really all I knew," Cook said. "When I grew up I started to really watch and understand basketball, that’s when the Lakers were winning. It was definitely a great time to be a fan.
"Obviously I was all the way in D.C. but I was obsessed with the Lakers and I felt that my dad really instilled in me. I had a fun childhood rooting for the Lakers."