OAKLAND — There may be nothing the Warriors or their fans would like more than a legitimate powerhouse rivalry with a team in California.
Please, then, let the LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard end up with the Lakers.
Or, failing that, the Clippers.
In the wake of the Warriors sweeping the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, James is expected to opt out of his deal in Cleveland and become an unrestricted free agent. The Lakers are considered a logical destination, but the Clippers, behind special consultant, Jerry West also would be interested.
If James were to come to either LA team, it’s anticipated that he would bring another All-Star with him. Leonard fits the profile. And he wants out of San Antonio, according to multiple reports Friday.
Given the mystery and drama surrounding the All-Star forward’s prolonged absence from the team, that’s not entirely unexpected. That Leonard reportedly would want to play in LA also is not surprising insofar as he is a Southern California native.
What’s more important is that both the Lakers and Clippers have the flexibility to make an appealing trade offer to the Spurs.
The Lakers have several intriguing young players, including Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle. The Clippers are not as deep in young talent, but they have the 12th and 13th picks in the draft next Thursday.
Leonard has one guaranteed year, at $20.1 million, remaining on his contract. He has a player option at $21.3 million in 2019-20. He played only nine games this season while rehabilitating from a quad injury.
The Lakers will have more than $60 million cap space to spend on salary, with James speculated to absorb a considerable portion of that.
Though the Warriors faced both the Lakers and the Clippers in the postseason, it has been 45 years since the Warriors battled either past the second round. The Warriors and Lakers met in the 1973 Western Conference Finals.
If James comes west and Leonard gets his wish, it would further tilt the balance of power toward the Western Conference. To be more specific, right in the backyard of the Warriors.
The last time there was a NorCal-SoCal matchup deep in the playoffs was 2002, when the Lakers and Kings concluded their three-year blood feud in the Western Conference Finals.
The Warriors were nowhere near the playoffs during those years. They are now regulars in the postseason and three-time NBA champs.
They’ve had their beefs with the Clippers and maybe they can revive that.
But a true Warriors fan surely would prefer to break hearts all over LA by personally kicking the Lakers out of the postseason for the first time since 1967.