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Could a Clippers flameout lead Kawhi to Miami?

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Both the Clippers and Heat dropped their playoff openers.

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Both the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers lost the opening games of their first-round playoff series. That has led some to rekindle a rumor — Kawhi Leonard joining the Heat when he enters free agency this off-season.

The speculation stems from a Marc Stein report from 2019 — when both Leonard and Jimmy Butler were free agents — that the then-Finals MVP at first recruited Butler to join him on the Los Angeles Clippers. Of course, Leonard is from Los Angeles.

Two months ago, I said only a monumental collapse similar to the blown 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets last year would lead him to consider leaving. A first-round exit would qualify. After his 2019 championship with the Toronto Raptors, Leonard had built an illustrious career that had some calling him the best player in the NBA. But after the Clippers collapse to the Nuggets last September, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer stated, “I don’t ever want to hear anyone argue that Kawhi is better than LeBron again.”

The Heat’s pitch to Leonard would center on him rebuilding his legacy after it took a hit. Miami would also need to get creative to provide Leonard the best offer, since the Bam Adebayo extension precluded the ability to offer max contracts this summer. Would Leonard be willing to take a discount? Would the Heat trade Tyler Herro to create more cap space?

It is important to keep some perspective. Kyle Lowry remains a much stronger free agency possibility than Leonard. When the Heat faced the Milwaukee Bucks in last season’s playoffs, reports linked Giannis Antetokounmpo to Miami. Antetokounmpo, of course, then signed the “supermax” extension with Milwaukee. But then again, who saw Miami signing Jimmy Butler in the midst of the 2019 playoffs?