Kawhi Leonard is named a person of few phrases, however he was reportedly the mastermind behind the Los Angeles Clippers’ enormous free company coup in the summertime of 2019. Leonard had simply led the Toronto Raptors to a stunning NBA championship when he entered free company in 2019. Leonard sought a return to his native southern California, and had the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers each vying for him. The mutual curiosity between Leonard and the Clippers was robust, however Leonard needed one other co-star to go along with him.
In response to a brand new report by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, a fellow celebrity reportedly approached Leonard about becoming a member of him in LA: Russell Westbrook. On the time, Westbrook was nonetheless taking part in on the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder, however he additionally needed to return to his native Los Angeles and noticed a possibility to hitch himself to Leonard to get there.
Westbrook reportedly put in a name to Leonard to pitch the thought, however he didn’t get an settlement from Kawhi. As an alternative, Leonard rotated and referred to as Westbrook’s teammate in Oklahoma Metropolis — Paul George — and advised him about Westbrook’s inquiry. Leonard most well-liked to play with George over Westbrook, and weeks later George requested a commerce to the Clippers. LA’s different workforce had pulled off one of the stunning 1-2 punches in free company in league historical past.
Shelburne has the small print at ESPN:
Westbrook would as an alternative be traded to the Houston Rockets to play with James Harden. A 12 months later, he was despatched to the Washington Wizards in trade for John Wall. Westbrook lastly bought his want to play in Los Angeles on the evening of the 2021 NBA Draft when the Wizards traded him to the Lakers.
It was a crafty transfer by Leonard, however his championship aspirations on the Clippers have but to work out. Leonard and George’s Clippers workforce blew a 3-1 result in the Denver Nuggets within the bubble playoffs final season, after which misplaced to the Phoenix Suns within the Western Convention Finals after Leonard suffered a partial tear of his ACL.
George reportedly wasn’t Leonard’s first selection, both. In response to reporting by insider Marc Stein in 2019, Leonard reached out to Jimmy Butler and Kevin Durant a couple of partnership on the Clippers earlier than George. Right here’s Stein’s radio hit transcribed on the small print behind the celebrity telephone calls.
Mainly, the entire week of free company is when he zeroed in on Paul George. Ya know, he didn’t begin there. He made a run at Jimmy Butler first, and that was occurring even in the course of the playoffs. And he additionally explored Kevin Durant. ‘Kevin, would you come to the Clippers with me?’ … We’ve identified the Clippers have needed Kawhi for a really very long time. However Kawhi needed to be joined by an elite-level participant. And I’m not attempting to counsel that Paul was his third selection. They’re clearly pals and he loves Paul George, however Paul George wasn’t gettable. He has three extra years on his contract, two earlier than a participant choice. So that you wouldn’t have focused Paul George first as a result of even Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t have thought he was out there.
Leonard is now a free agent once more. He’s the highest participant out there this summer time regardless of the partially torn ACL that clouds his standing for subsequent season. The latest experiences say Leonard is more likely to re-sign with the Clippers, however he’s additionally taking conferences with different groups. Leonard reportedly needs a ‘1+1’ deal from LA, in accordance with Chris Haynes, which might give him a participant choice after this season and permit him to get again on the open market.
May Leonard play the Clippers this time by taking their cash for subsequent season whereas he’s injured, after which planning his subsequent transfer to a different franchise? It’s laborious to place such a transfer previous him after the best way he pulled the correct strings in 2019.