Kawhi Leonard may have pulled one heck of a Don Corleone move on the Los Angeles Lakers.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported on Saturday that the Lakers met with Leonard at a Westlake Village hotel this week after the reigning Finals MVP requested that they meet there instead of in El Segundo. Shelburne also said that it appears Leonard met with Paul George nearby that very same day.
The Lakers meeting with Kawhi Leonard was Tues afternoon at a hotel in Westlake Village. Only Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka were there, at KL’s request. The location had been switched from El Segundo, at KL’s request, w/ in 24 hrs. It appears KL met with PG, nearby, same day.
Of course, Leonard wound up turning down the Lakers to sign a four-year deal with the cross-arena rival LA Clippers and simultaneously recruited George to the team by getting him to secure a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Westlake Village is over an hour drive away from El Segundo, so if Leonard forced the Lakers contingent to make that trek just so it would be easier to plot against them, that only adds to the various layers of hurt here for them.
The narrative emerging from the Los Angeles Clippers’ acquisition of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George is that the team simply felt they had no choice but to make the deals in order to fend off competition and perhaps stop a dynasty from forming in their own backyard.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Clippers believed that, unless they dealt for George, Leonard would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers to play with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, potentially shifting the balance of power their way for years to come.
The Clippers also feared Toronto in trade negotiations. At one point, Clippers’ brass reportedly feared that Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti was close to a deal with the Raptors that would have sent George there, a move the player would have been willing to make. Ultimately, such a deal was never close, as Presti played the Clippers against the Raptors to get a huge return for George.
The Clippers were clearly given the impression that their only chance of landing Leonard was by acquiring George, and they could have faced huge consequences if they didn’t do so. With that in mind, they simply did what they felt they had to do.
The Clippers came out of nowhere to acquire George after Kawhi Leonard recruited him and he demanded a trade. While he apparently didn’t run into any issues with his most prominent teammate in Oklahoma City, the chance to return home and play with Leonard on what immediately becomes one of the NBA’s foremost title contenders was simply too good an opportunity to pass up.
Paul George essentially forced his way out of Oklahoma City a year after assuring Thunder fans he was “here to stay,” and that has led to speculation that his relationship with Russell Westbrook deteriorated over the past season. That was apparently not the case.
ESPN’s Royce Young reports that the relationship between George and Westbrook was “strong” throughout their two seasons together, and there was no falling out prior to George requesting a trade. It appears George simply wanted out because he had an opportunity to play with Kawhi Leonard, as Young also noted that the Thunder were completely blindsided by the request.
The Thunder were able to secure a massive haul of draft picks from the Los Angeles Clippers in the George trade, and general manager Sam Presti deserves credit for using the Toronto Raptors as leverage to get the best deal possible. Now, the question becomes what he will do with Westbrook.
Westbrook, 30, is owed a whopping $124 million over the next three years, with a player option to make $47 million for the 2022-23 season. While the Thunder could try to build around him, unloading his contract seems like a more likely scenario if they can find a taker. A total rebuild would be easier without Westbrook’s massive salary on the books.
We know Westbrook has had plenty of well-documented issues with teammates in the past, but it sounds like George simply capitalized on an opportunity to play alongside the NBA Finals MVP. It’s hard to blame him for that.
The Oklahoma City Thunder received an unprecedented haul from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Paul George trade, and that is because general manager Sam Presti played an unfortunate situation to perfection.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Presti managed to play the Clippers and Toronto Raptors against each other once George asked to be traded, which was earlier in the week. Both the Clippers and Raptors knew acquiring George would likely be the move that would allow them to sign Leonard, and Presti used that to his advantage.
Wojnarowski reports that Presti pursued a blockbuster deal that would have sent both George and Russell Westbrook to Toronto with Pascal Siakam as the centerpiece of the return package. Raptors president Masai Ujiri was not interested, feeling that any factors that might lead Leonard to want to sign with the Clippers — such as Kawhi’s Southern California roots — were out of his control. While Ujiri may have never really considered making the deal, the negotiations undoubtedly put more pressure on the Clippers.
In the end, Presti was able to secure four unprotected first-round picks and one protected first-round pick in addition to swapping some picks with the Clippers. Oklahoma City also got Danilo Gallinari and 2018 first-round pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Between the Raptors still fighting to keep Leonard and the Lakers appearing on the verge of assembling a dynasty, Presti was essentially able to name his asking price.
Leonard probably was not going to sign with the Lakers anyway, but Magic Johnson may have sealed their fate with his big mouth. Still, their presence in the sweepstakes combined with George being a key factor allowed Presti to get as much as the Thunder could have hoped for in the deal.
Kawhi Leonard choosing to sign with the LA Clippers in free agency was not a huge surprise, but the massive shocker was Paul George being acquired by the team in a trade. The team’s ability to land George is what made signing Leonard possible.
So just how did that come together? According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard met with George in Los Angeles to recruit him to join him on the Clippers. George complied and approached the Thunder to request a trade. Woj says Oklahoma City did not want to enter a season with a discontent star, so they made the deal.
After Leonard pushed George to find a way to get to the Clippers, Paul George approached the team and requested a trade, league sources tell ESPN. OKC was left with no choice and made the best out of a difficult situation, per sources.
Paul George asked the Thunder for a trade within the last few days, and according to sources OKC felt it had no choice but to find a deal to reboot, rather than risk a bad situation all year long with an unhappy star
Sources: Leonard and George met in LA earlier in week. Clippers had long been frontrunners for Leonard, but it is unlikely he would've made final leap to sign without PG trade. Clippers imagined Leonard as part of a Lakers Big 3 — and knew they had no choice. They did OKC deal.
Two is that the Thunder are completely retooling and now will have several future draft picks and a few quality players in Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to join Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, and the rest of the Thunder.
The LA Clippers pulled off the biggest moves of the NBA summer as they have completely remade their roster with a couple of true superstar players.
Kawhi Leonard has decided to sign with the Clippers, word emerged on Friday night via Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. At the same time ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Clippers acquired Paul George in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Woj says Danilo Gallinari and 2018 first-round pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are being traded to the Thunder, along with a record package of future draft picks. The draft picks include four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick and two pick swaps, according to Woj.
That is a massive haul of picks, but it was worth it to the Clippers to pair together two of the best two-way players in the league. They’re also keeping most of their supporting cast together, which gives them a true championship contender.
They have reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, whose contract they guaranteed for the 2020-2021 season. They re-signed Patrick Beverley earlier in free agency. Montrezl Harrell, Jerome Robinson, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder and Sindarius Thornwell are other players under contract with the team. They also acquired Moe Harkless in a trade this offseason.
The Clippers now have the reigning NBA Finals MVP, and a player who was a finalist for NBA MVP and NBA Defensive Player of the Year in George. Between that star power and their team in place, the Clippers have to be the favorites to win it all next season.
Despite both players recently dealing with injuries, they have plenty of prime years left. Leonard is 28 while George is 29. Leonard only played in nine games two seasons ago due to his quad injury. He played in 60 regular season games last season while managing his return from the injury. George played hurt during the playoffs but has been expected to undergo surgeries on each of his shoulders this offseason. He had rotator cuff surgery to repair a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder. George was also set to undergo surgery to repair a small tear in the labrum of his left shoulder.