In a shocking move early Saturday morning, the Thunder agreed to trade one of their two superstars, Paul George, to the Clippers. The move facilitated the Clippers pairing George with Kawhi Leonard, who agreed to a four-year pact with the organization earlier in the morning.
The landscape of the league has been altered with the Clippers and their crosscourt rival Lakers expected to dominate headlines this forthcoming season. The process that led to the Clippers becoming one of the NBA’s powerhouses included a lot of moving parts, a lot of communication and a heavily involved Leonard.
Before George to L.A. became a possibility, Leonard had reached out to Kevin Durant about the possibility of the duo teaming up with the Clippers, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. Leonard told Durant he “admired him, and had tremendous respect for him as a competitor,” according to Shelburne. While Durant appreciated the recruitment from Leonard, he was already set on pairing with Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan in Brooklyn.
Therefore, the process moved on and Leonard set his sights on pairing with another superstar: Paul George.
Here are some more tidbits on George being traded to the Clippers:
- In Shelburne’s report, she noted that Leonard’s camp attempted to delay the consummation of the Anthony Davis to the Lakers trade until “as late as Sunday.” No reason was provided to the Lakers, only that the request be honored if the organization wanted to stay in the running for his services. We had relayed that Leonard’s free agency decision was holding up a series of moves, the Davis trade being one of them.
- Shelburne also noted that Leonard, who is known for his quiet demeanor both on and off the court, took an active, engaging role during free agency. “For a quiet guy, he’s a hell of a recruiter,” one source told her. Sam Amick of The Athletic heard a similar account of Leonard’s activity during free agency: “Kawhi recruited the hell out of him,” one source told Amick. “He did a number on Paul.”
- The Thunder organization was blindsided by George’s trade request, ESPN’s Royce Young writes. It was just one year ago when George decided to forego free agency and re-sign with OKC on a long-term pact. The Palmdale, California, native had long been rumored to want to play for his hometown Lakers; now he will return home but will suit up for the Clippers.
- With George gone, the Thunder secured quite the haul their now-former superstar. While OKC had planned to compete next season, led by George and Russell Westbrook, the focus is now on a rebuild. Brett Dawson of The Athletic examined how and why the trade went down and which directions are available to the Thunder. Whether it’s dealing Westbrook and going full rebuild or trying to build a roster more suited toward their MVP’s style, OKC has a lot of decisions to make.