After a seismic 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Southern California Friday night, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George seemingly ignited an aftershock just hours later, once the news broke out in the NBA.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported that the Los Angeles Clippers signed 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and traded for superstar Paul George.
The Clippers managed to sign Leonard to a four-year, $141 million contract, while sending Oklahoma City their unprotected 2022, 2024 and 2026 picks, their unprotected 2021 and protected 2023 first-round picks via Miami, and the rights to swap picks with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025 to acquire George according to Wojnarowski.
Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari were also included in the deal that sent them to the Thunder.
Leonard was believed to only be interested in the Clippers if they could pair another superstar alongside him; owner Steve Ballmer and executive Jerry West did just that.
George was a quiet and low-key target for Los Angeles and he then did something that no one saw coming. The Palmdale native and six-time All-Star approached Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti, requesting a trade — to the Clippers, just one year after signing a four-year, $142 million max contract.
“If the Clippers win the championship, this will change Paul George’s legacy,” said FOX Sports analyst Chris Broussard. “He could become Scottie Pippen, and that’s a great legacy. He made the right move.”
For Leonard, he had a chance to build a dynasty around LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Los Angeles Lakers; he declined.
“Kawhi Leonard didn’t want to construct a Super Team with the Lakers,” said Wojnarowski on Twitter. “He wanted a co-star across the Staples corridor with the Clippers and made it clear to Steve Ballmer and Lawrence Frank, ‘Get PG, and I’m coming.’”
The Clippers were rumored to be the favorite to land Leonard at the beginning of NBA free agency and they got their “fun guy.”
“Kawhi Leonard is going to wind up right here in Los Angeles with the L.A. Clippers,” said FOX Sports analyst Rob Parker back in June. “Kawhi’s ‘legendary status would go through the roof’ if he joins the Clippers & wins a title.”
Leonard is fresh off delivering the Toronto Raptors their first championship in NBA history after defeating the Golden State Warriors.
In winning a second Bill Russell Finals MVP Award, he joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to earn Finals MVPs with two different franchises.
With Los Angeles, the Clippers, potentially, for the first time in franchise history, are the favorite to win the NBA title,” according to ESPN Staff Writer David Purdum. Caesars Sportsbook recently moved the Clippers from 10-1 to 11-4 to win the 2019-20 NBA title, just ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers boasted a 48-34 record and earned the eighth seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, taking the Warriors to six games. Rivers won the 2018-19 season Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with the media and fans and excellence on the court.
Adding George and Leonard to a team that already has the three-time winning NBA Sixth Man of the Year in Lou Williams will be dangerous and formidable.
As of now, the intrigue of the Western Conference Finals could undoubtedly include two teams from Southern California, in the Clippers and Lakers. So, let the battle of LA begin.