After sitting out the Clippers‘ last three games due to a left knee contusion, Kawhi Leonard will suit up tonight against Boston, marking the first time that Leonard and Paul George will play together for the franchise, per Ohm Youngmisuk and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
For George, it will be the culmination of what has been a years-long desire to team up with Leonard, as he tells Youngmisuk in a separate ESPN article. According to George, when he requested a trade out of Indiana in 2017, the Lakers were widely believed to be his desired landing spot, but he also had interest in being sent to the Spurs, who still had Kawhi on their roster at the time.
“I wanted to be traded to San Antonio,” George told Youngmisuk. “We wanted to go to San Antonio first, and we didn’t make that happen.”
A source confirms to ESPN that the Spurs and Pacers talked at the time, but San Antonio lacked the assets necessary to make a move for George. The Lakers ultimately passed too, since they were reluctant to surrender too many assets for a player they thought they might be able to sign in free agency, writes Youngmisuk. George was eventually dealt to Oklahoma City, but still hoped to team up with Leonard at some point down the road.
“Since that moment, we were trying to pair up with one another,” George said. “We were trying to make it work. [After being traded to the Thunder] I had obligations that I wanted to come back to Oklahoma and give it another shot. … And then I felt that I needed to move on, I needed to go in another direction and I needed to at that point do what I wanted to do my whole career.”
About four or five days before news broke this summer that the Clippers had reached deals to acquire George and sign Leonard, Kawhi reached out to PG13 to see if the time was finally right to try to play together. Although it took another trade request from George, the two star forwards did ultimately end up on the same roster in Los Angeles. Now, they’ll take the court together as teammates for the first time.
“Just seems like it was destined,” George said over the summer. “We were supposed to play together.”