Associated Press Kawhi Leonard, right, will be leaving the Raptors after bringing Toronto a title. He will be signing instead with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Sunday, July 07, 2019 1:00 am
Clippers getting Leonard, George
Trade for Thunder star before signing prized free agent
TIM REYNOLDS | Associated Press
LAS VEGAS – The Los Angeles Clippers made a huge decision.
That meant Kawhi Leonard could finally make his.
The Clippers will be landing Leonard as a free agent after they acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a massive trade for players and draft picks, a person familiar with the negotiations said.
George will be traded for at least four first-round picks, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity early Saturday because none of the moves have been finalized. And Leonard made his decision to sign with the Clippers after the team swung the deal to land George, the person said.
ESPN, which first reported the trade, also said the Thunder were getting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari from the Clippers.
Leonard going to the Clippers means that for the first time, a reigning NBA Finals MVP will be changing teams before the following season. Leonard was also being pursued by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors, the team he led to last season's NBA title.
The most the Clippers can offer Leonard is $142 million over four years, which is the deal he is expected to sign. Players can sign with new teams as early as noon on Saturday.
“New adventure in OKC,” Gallinari tweeted.
Leonard is entering his ninth NBA season, is a three-time All-Star, a two-time champion and one of only three players in league history to win the NBA Finals MVP award with multiple franchises.
Notoriously a man of few words, at least publicly, Leonard is generally considered to be the best two-way player in the NBA – dominant on the offensive end, airtight on the defensive end.
His game-winning, four-bounce-off-the-rim jumper to beat the buzzer in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia was perhaps the signature moment of this past season's playoffs.
And he just turned 28 last week – still very much in his prime.
So, too, is George.
The 29-year-old – who is owed roughly $105 million for the next three seasons – spent the last two years alongside Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. George averaged a career-best 28 points last season even while dealing with shoulder issues that required surgery, and the Thunder couldn't get out of the first round in either of those seasons.
The former Indiana Pacer was a finalist for both NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year last season, when he led the league with 2.21 steals per contest.
A California native, going to the Clippers and pairing with Leonard means he'll have a real chance of being on a title contender.
The Lakers didn't wait long before starting to move on from their quest for Leonard. Danny Green announced that he is signing a two-year deal with the Lakers, meaning he, too, is leaving Toronto.
“Kawhi has made his decision. Seems like the announcement is out,” Green said in a video he posted to his social media accounts. “It's time for me to make my announcement ... I will be teaming up with new teammates in LA, the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Green said he enjoyed Toronto and that it was unfortunate how free agency turned out for that city, the Raptors and for Canada.
“LA, here I come,” Green said.
Here comes Leonard – a Southern California native.
Leonard was, by far, the biggest name left on the free agent market. The other marquee names in this class like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker all made their decisions known relatively quickly.
And like Durant, Irving and Walker, he's changing addresses.