Reports from over the summer indicated that Kawhi Leonard wanted another superstar if he were to join the Los Angeles Clippers, and as it turned out, that guy ended up being Paul George. The California native had just finished his second season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Leonard believed he could be plucked out of his current situation to join the Clippers, in part because the reigning NBA Finals MVP spent some time recruiting him.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN wrote up a fascinating story on George’s decision to come to Los Angeles. After George called Leonard to congratulate him on winning the title with the Raptors, Leonard supposedly started to recruit. As a result, the two agreed to meet at the Los Angeles-area home of noted Raptors superfan Drake.
There were countless text messages and phone calls and then two in-person meetings at Drake’s house in Hidden Hills, California. (Drake had befriended Leonard during his season in Toronto and let Leonard — who lives in San Diego — stay there when he was in Los Angeles for free-agent meetings.) By July 1, they had decided to put their plan in motion: Leonard told the Clippers that he was interested in playing for them but only if they could improve their roster by adding an All-Star-caliber player like George.
Over the July Fourth holiday, the Thunder opened conversations with the Clippers and the Raptors. The Clippers were clearly the favored destination, and they were deeply engaged in creating a package that would net them George and Leonard.
The pair kept in constant communication, even meeting again at Drake’s house after Leonard returned from a meeting in Toronto, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Drake being tight with Leonard and letting him use his place when it was open isn’t a surprise in the slightest, but there are a few questions worth asking about this set up. Was Drake unaware this might happen? Did he just not care because Leonard brought a title to Toronto? Did he already know that Leonard was on his way out no matter what? A report indicated that Drake was going to try and help the Raptors in their pitch to keep Leonard around, but instead, he played a small role in helping the Clippers land Leonard and George.