Magic Johnson says he received word that Kawhi Leonard had an interest in speaking with him as the free agent prepares to meet with the Los Angeles Lakers but that he is not permitted by NBA rules to be part of official team meetings with prospective free agents.
Leonard, who is expected to speak to the Lakers in the next few days, had made a personal request that only owner Jeanie Buss and Johnson, the team's former president of basketball operations, be involved in the meeting, sources told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith on Friday.
Johnson told ESPN he has not been asked by the Lakers or Buss to participate in free-agent pitches but that he will help the Lakers in free agency in any way he can.
"A friend of mine called and says Kawhi wants to meet with you," Johnson told ESPN on Friday. "I said no problem. I'm available if that's what this man wants."
Because the league has specifically told the Lakers that Johnson can't be a formal part of the free-agency process, Los Angeles has made no attempt to engage Johnson formally, league sources said.
However, there has been regular communication between Johnson and the Lakers about how he can be helpful to them informally, as he no longer works for the team and is free to have any relationships with current players.
"I got a great life. I want to stick to that great life," Johnson said. "I'm not trying to mess with anybody's job."
Johnson said he wants to help the Lakers, and specifically LeBron James, because he recruited him with the promise of building a championship-caliber team in Los Angeles together. Johnson stepped down as the Lakers' president of basketball operations on April 9.
"He signed knowing I was here," Johnson said of James. "That we had a plan. He knew he had a big brother in me as well. He could run things by me. He can still do that."
James has made it clear to the Lakers that he would be enthusiastic about attending the meeting with Leonard if the organization thinks it would be helpful, sources said. Johnson said he thinks there is a mutual respect between the two players.
"Everyone forgets. [Leonard] played with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili," Johnson said. "He's played with multiple superstars. He's been one of the guys on a team like that."
Anthony Davis, whose trade to the Lakers won't be completed until the moratorium ends, can act only on his own behalf. Davis cannot act as an official representative of the Lakers in a free-agent meeting.
Johnson said he has left messages for Buss but hasn't heard back from her on the request from Leonard to meet with him.
"Whatever she wants to do, I'm fine with it," Johnson said. "Everyone at this point just wants the Lakers to be good, and it's from her leadership.
"I don't know if last year or two years ago she would have made these moves. But now she is really incredibly involved. She's aggressive and making the moves she needs to make. She's stepped up big time. I'm so proud of her."
Leonard did not opt into the final year of his contract with the Toronto Raptors, making him an unrestricted free agent.
He is expected to allow the Raptors to make the final presentation among the teams meeting with him in Los Angeles next week, league sources have told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The incumbent often prefers to go last in trying to convince a player to stay with the team.
Leonard was named NBA Finals MVP after helping Toronto win the franchise's first championship in his first season with the team. He was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the San Antonio Spurs last summer.