After helping the Toronto Raptors win their first NBA championship title, reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard became one of the most coveted superstars in the 2019 NBA free agency. After a series of meetings and thinking where he wanted to play next, Leonard ultimately decided to sign a three-year, $103 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. Many people were surprised by Leonard’s decision to sign with the Clippers.
When the 2018-19 NBA officially came to an end, the Los Angeles Lakers were the frontrunners to sign Kawhi Leonard and not the Clippers. In an interview with Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times, Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers revealed that he played a major role in recruiting Leonard in the 2019 NBA free agency. Unlike most NBA teams, Rivers said that he didn’t follow the conventional way of the free-agent recruitment process and just showed Leonard how serious he is in terms of winning and how he will fit in with the Clippers.
“All the other stuff that people think matters in the recruitment, I don’t think Kawhi wanted to talk about that, so I didn’t,” Rivers said, as quoted by Bleacher Report. “I talked about winning, and basketball. Kawhi is a serious man and I think you felt that with him. I think he felt the seriousness of me and how serious I am about winning and he felt good about that match.”
Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers isn’t new to recruiting big names on the free agency market. During his time as the head coach of the Orlando Magic, Rivers led the recruitment of Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill in the summer of 2000. Rivers believes that his experience and numerous achievements made him a more effective recruiter.
“I guess the difference this time is I knew the league more. I knew me more,” Rivers said. “I had a body of work.”
After losing the “Big Three” of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, no one expected the Clippers to be back to becoming a real threat in the deep Western Conference anytime soon. However, all their hard works paid off when they succeeded to build a roster that can legitimately contend for the NBA championship title this summer.
Kawhi Leonard didn’t go to the Clippers alone. On his way back home, Leonard recruited All-Star forward Paul George, who immediately demanded a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Adding Leonard and George to the core that reached the playoffs last season tremendously helped the Clippers turn themselves from being a mediocre team to a legitimate title contender in the league.