Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are now teammates on the Los Angeles Clippers after L.A. managed to trade for George by sending a hefty amount of draft picks and assets to Oklahoma City so they could secure Leonard’s signing as a free agent.
On Wednesday, the two were officially introduced as members of the Clippers and spoke at length both in a press conference and in sitdowns with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols and Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. Through those conversations we’ve learned an awful lot about the process that brought both players to L.A., at least from their perspectives. While there are contradictions to whether it was “mutual” or not, George’s departure from the Thunder was apparently always a possibility should the Thunder not show marked improvement in Year 2 of the Westbrook-George tandem.
Leonard, meanwhile, wanted to go somewhere he could “build our own,” which was among the top selling points for the Clippers over the Lakers, with the caveat that they needed to land another star like George. This summer was apparently not the first time the two SoCal natives have tried to link up on the court, as Leonard told Nichols that he pushed hard for the Spurs to trade for George when he became available in the summer of 2017, prior to his trade to Oklahoma City.
Kawhi Leonard said he was trying to get the San Antonio Spurs to trade for Paul George prior to the Oklahoma City trade. pic.twitter.com/f9VGlLUq7W
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) July 25, 2019
As Leonard notes, that clearly didn’t work out, but it’s interesting to learn that he was trying to add stars to the Spurs prior to his eventual departure once his relationship with the team deteriorated over his quad injury. It’s quite the “What If?” for a pair of players that have nearly crossed paths a couple times in their careers, beginning with Leonard being taken by Indiana in the draft before being traded to San Antonio.
It’s worked out for them as they’re back home in L.A. and playing on a title favorite, but the Pacers and Spurs have to wonder if anything would’ve been different had they been the ones to pair the two.