- Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency after convincing them to trade for Paul George.
- According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Leonard recruited both Kevin Durant and George in free agency and impressed both stars.
- While Durant chose to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, George was convinced to ask for a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Los Angeles Clippers to play with Leonard.
- Nobody seemed to know Leonard’s true intentions this summer, but he proved to be a power player in shifting the balance of the NBA.
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Kawhi Leonard has changed the NBA again.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers after they pulled off a massive trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George.
According to several reports, Leonard told the Clippers – who, to some in the NBA world, had fallen out of the running for Leonard – that he wanted to play with George. The Clippers ultimately traded a haul to the Thunder for George so they could land Leonard.
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Leonard surprised some in the NBA world with his recruiting efforts in free agency. Leonard keeps a tight circle and few knew his true feelings on free agency. According to Shelburne, Leonard surprised Kevin Durant by reaching out to Durant to try to team up with him.
Wrote Shelburne: “Durant was flattered and more than a little stunned, according to sources close to the situation. He didn’t know Leonard that well, so getting a recruiting call like that made a real impression.”
Durant ultimately went through with his plan to team up with Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets.
Leonard turned to George next. As Shelburne noted, the two have a lot in common as two-way superstars from towns outside of LA, who were lightly recruited in high school, went to mid-major schools, then were drafted in the middle of the first round in 2011.
According to Shelburne, Leonard began actively recruiting George to the Clippers, even while meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors. Leonard was trying to convince George to find a way out of Oklahoma City.
“Like Durant, George was flattered by Leonard’s recruiting… Still, Leonard’s recruiting efforts caught George by surprise… But George felt like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to play at home in LA, alongside a generational talent like Leonard. So in the middle of the week he went to Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti and asked for a trade – to the Clippers.”
A source close to George told Shelburne of Leonard: “For a quiet guy, he’s a hell of a recruiter.”
Leonard remains something of a mystery to much of the NBA world, and people are infatuated with him when they get glimpses. whether it’s mocking his own laugh or trash-talking opponents.
Nobody seemed to know Leonard’s intentions this summer. Some thought he might stay in Toronto short-term to run it back with the Raptors and earn more money down the road. Some thought he might like the idea of forming a super-team with the Lakers. Others thought Leonard wanted to be the best player on his own team and not team up with other stars.
What’s clear is NBA stars respect Leonard’s ability, and behind the scenes, Leonard is a power player, capable of shaking up the league.
- Read more:
- NBA fans were baffled when they woke to the news that Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers
- NBA free agency has exploded. Here are the biggest signings so far and the best remaining players.
- DeMarcus Cousins’ free-agent value has reportedly cratered one year after his shocking gamble with the Warriors
- The Warriors pulled off a fascinating retool as they lost Kevin Durant, and they may not be done yet
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