In the last two summers, the Los Angeles Lakers were snubbed by two NBA superstars whom they aggressively pursued on the free agency market, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who both publicly stated their desire to play for their hometown team. In the 2019 NBA offseason, both superstars pushed through with their dream of representing Los Angeles. However, instead of joining the Lakers, they decided to team up on their co-tenant at Staples Center: the Los Angeles Clippers.
After a series of meetings and thinking where he would want to play next season, Kawhi Leonard agreed to sign a three-year, $103 million contract in the 2019 NBA free agency. On his way to the Clippers, Leonard heavily recruited Paul George, whom Los Angeles acquired by trading Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and multiple first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In a recent interview with ESPN, which is currently posted on YouTube, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant shared an interesting idea regarding why Leonard and George decided to choose the Clippers as their next destination, and not the purple and gold.
“Well, I think he wanted the challenge of trying to turn the Clippers around and I think he saw a great opportunity if Paul George wanted to participate in that challenge with him,” Bryant said, as quoted by Lakers Nation. “Both kids are from L.A., the Lakers were their favorite team, but then you grow up and things change. So I think they both saw it as an opportunity, as a challenge to try and take a Clippers organization that says all the right things and has been doing all the right things in terms of turning the team in the right direction, and they saw it as a great chance to jump in and be a part of it.”
Kobe Bryant definitely has a point. Kawhi Leonard is the type of player who loves being challenged rather than taking an easy path to winning an NBA championship. However, though he managed to help the Toronto Raptors bring home their first Larry O’Brien Trophy last season, Leonard doesn’t want to be overconfident that he, alone, could do the same thing with the Clippers, especially now that he’s back in the more competitive Western Conference. This could be the reason why he urged the Clippers to trade for Paul George before he agreed to sign a contract.
Kawhi Leonard’s decision to team up with Paul George, instead of forming a “Big Three” with Anthony Davis and LeBron James, has undeniably broken the hearts of Lakers fans. However, Leonard’s move undoubtedly created balance in the NBA and it made the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season more exciting and less predictable. With their current roster, the Clippers are already one of the favorites to win the NBA championship in the 2019-20 NBA season.
However, the Clippers could still seek a roster upgrade if an NBA superstar is available on the trade market before the 2020 February NBA trade deadline. According to a previous The Inquisitr article, one of the potential trade targets for the Clippers is Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. In the proposed trade deal, the Clippers would be sending a trade package including Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, and Mfiondu Kabengele to the Wizards in exchange for Beal.