When he demanded a trade from the San Antonio Spurs last summer, the popular belief was that Kawhi Leonard would be joining the Los Angeles Lakers as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Lakers team was likely one of Leonard’s preferred landing spots in the 2019 NBA free agency, but it seems he’s more interested in playing for the Purple and Gold’s co-tenant at the Staples Center – the Los Angeles Clippers.
After a series of meetings, Kawhi Leonard ultimately decided to sign a three-year, $103 million contract with the Clippers. During his introductory press conference, the reigning Finals MVP revealed why he chose the Clippers over the Lakers and the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA free agency.
“I grew up a Clippers fan,” Leonard said, as quoted by ESPN. “I loved the Clippers as a kid. With Doc [Rivers] being a championship head coach, that is something I wanted, an experienced coach. And the front office is very transparent with me. They want to win. It’s an opportunity for us to build our own and make history. They haven’t been to a Finals and haven’t won a Finals and that was something exciting for me to make my decision.”
Before Kawhi Leonard made a decision, the Lakers were emerging as the front-runners to acquire him in the 2019 NBA free agency, so everyone was shocked when the news came out that he signed with the Clippers. Leonard praised the Clippers for not breaking his trust by not leaking any information about their free-agency meeting.
“Once we had our meeting, I felt like they were true to their word,” Leonard said. “Nothing really got out. It was a great decision.”
Kawhi Leonard may not be interested in building a superteam with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers, but he didn’t go to the Clippers alone. On his way to the Clippers, Leonard actively recruited several NBA superstars and succeeded to convince Paul George. Upon expressing his desire to be traded, the Oklahoma City Thunder were left with no choice but to send him to the Clippers in exchange for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and future first-round picks.
Having two of the best two-way players in the NBA – Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – on their roster, the Clippers have managed to turn themselves from a mediocre team to a legitimate title contender in the deep Western Conference. As of now, Leonard and George only have one goal in mind, which is to help the Clippers win their first NBA championship title in the 2019-20 NBA season.