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On Thursday, a man named Johnny Wilkes who claims to be best friends with Kawhi Leonard’s uncle Dennis Robertson, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles alleging that the Clippers reneged on a $2.5 million oral deal they made with him to help the team land Kawhi Leonard in free agency. The Clippers confirmed that the NBA was investigating the matter but insisted they did nothing wrong. Today, TMZ has published a leaked voicemail from Clippers executive (and former Lakers legend) Jerry West to Wilkes, calling the Lakers “a shitshow” and saying he can’t imagine why Kawhi Leonard would want to go there and get much less attention than LeBron James.
Here are notes from ESPN’s story on the matter yesterday:
“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.”
According to the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, Wilkes alleges that he informed West in April 2019 that he was close to Leonard and the All-Star’s uncle. Wilkes and Robertson were teammates at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. The lawsuit alleges that Wilkes told West he could provide vital information to help the Clippers land Leonard in free agency if the team agreed to pay him $2.5 million for his services. According to the lawsuit, West agreed to the terms. Wilkes is seeking $2.5 million plus damages.
The lawsuit also claims that Wilkes told the Clippers they’d need to get Paul George first to land Leonard and that he introduced Jerry West to Leonard’s uncle Dennis Robertson.
On Thursday, West denied knowledge of the lawsuit and having done anything improper. “I am not aware of any lawsuit being filed against me and I deny engaging in any improper conduct in connection with the signing of Kawhi Leonard,” he told TMZ.
The Clippers could face up to $10 million in fines if the NBA ultimately rules that West’s contact with Wilkes constituted prohibited communication with an intermediary.
After the Clippers preseason game on Thursday, Kawhi Leonard denied that Wilkes in any way helped steer him to the Clippers and intimated that Wilkes is trying to make money off of him.
Nonetheless, this voicemail from Wilkes to West is damning because it proves that they actually did have contact. West spoke to him cordially, thanking him for his help and inviting him to dinner. That doesn’t settle the question of whether the Clippers made an oral deal with him. But, it does refute the idea that Wilkes was some completely random rabble rouser, which he was not.