The NBA has opened an investigation into Los Angeles Clippers executive Jerry West’s role in Kawhi Leonard’s signing with the team as a free agent in 2019 following a lawsuit filed against West on Monday, a person familiar with the details told USA TODAY Sports.
The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing league investigation.
On Monday, Johnny Wilkes filed a lawsuit in County of Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that West agreed to pay him $2.5 million if he helped the Clippers sign Leonard in free agency in the summer of 2019.
Wilkes also claims in the lawsuit that he informed Dennis Robertson, Leonard’s uncle, that Robertson would receive a house in Southern California, a travel expense account and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would fund a $100 million marketing campaign for Leonard.
Wilkes in the lawsuit claims he gave West critical information to use in the Clippers’ pitch to Leonard during a free agency meeting.
Wilkes also alleges that after Leonard signed with the Clippers he met with West at a Beverly Hills restaurant and West “reconfirmed that he and the CLIPPERS would take care of him and honor their agreement. Jerry then instructed Plaintiff to type his request for payment and email it to his good friend Jim Gray. While at the meeting Jim Gray sent Plaintiff his email address. Plaintiff formalized his request in writing and emailed it to Jim Gray shortly thereafter,” according to the lawsuit.
“The lawsuit filed by Johnny Wilkes is replete with inaccuracies and the allegations are baseless,” the Clippers said in a statement Thursday. “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.”
West is an Basketball Hall of Famer who played for the Lakers and became one of the game’s greatest front-office executives, helping the Lakers win four championships. The Clippers hired West as a consultant in 2017.
On May 31, 2019, the NBA fined the Clippers $50,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rules over comments made about Leonard by then-Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Leonard was playing for Toronto at the time.
TMZ first reported the lawsuit and obtained a statement from West denying any improper conduct in the signing of Leonard.