The Brooklyn Nets started the 2018-19 season poorly, going 8-18 in their first 26 games. Since then, however, the Nets are on a seven-game winning streak that includes a big overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors. And according to ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, speaking on his podcast, the Nets were up to a bit more than just basketball that night.
“We gotta pay attention to the Brooklyn Nets. The Brooklyn Nets. It is time we showed them more respect,” said Smith. “Particularly because of the cap money they’re going to have available. The question is, can they recruit? I think one of their assistant coaches was seen having dinner last week with Kawhi Leonard when they played Toronto. Look man, you can’t rule out anything.”
Leonard is scheduled to become a free agent next offseason, and the 27-year-old could be looking for a new home. He’s a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and an NBA champion, having won a ring in the 2013-14 season. He also was the Finals MVP that year, averaging 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while playing smothering defense.
This season, Leonard is averaging career bests in points (26.4) and rebounds (8.5) in 35.1 minutes per game. The Raptors boast a 24-9 record, which is the best in the NBA. They’re 1.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, although Milwaukee has played three less games than Toronto. The Nets have moved within a half-game of a playoff spot in the East, and they could make their first postseason appearance since the 2014-15 season.