Before the 2019 NBA free agency period started, the Los Angeles Lakers emerged as the No. 1 favorite to sign reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Since the 2018 NBA offseason, Leonard had been informing everyone in the league about his desire to play for his hometown team. When he officially became an unrestricted free agent, Leonard really pushed forward with his plan to take his talent to Los Angeles, but instead of forming “Big Three” with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers, he decided to sign with their Staples Center’s co-tenant, the Los Angeles Clippers.
Speaking to the media at a recent nonprofit event, via the Los Angeles Times, Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers shared some interesting details of their pursuit of Kawhi Leonard in the 2019 NBA free agency. During their meeting, Rivers revealed that Leonard expressed interest in working with him and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. However, before agreeing to sign a contract with the Clippers, Rivers revealed that Leonard gave them one condition.
“He said, ‘I want to play for you,’ and he pointed at me,” Rivers said, as quoted by Yahoo Sports. “He said, ‘Mr. Ballmer, I love the things you do and what you stand for, but your team is not good enough and if you don’t change your team, I’m not coming.'”
After hearing Kawhi Leonard’s request, the Clippers immediately presented him with several NBA superstars whom they could target on the trade market. However, Coach Doc Rivers revealed that there’s only one player Leonard wanted to team up with in Los Angeles, and that is All-Star forward Paul George.
“We showed him everybody else and he didn’t want to hear it. He just stayed on Paul George, so after the meeting we sat down and I said, ‘We got to get Paul George. I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we have to do it.'”
After a series of trade negotiation, the Clippers succeeded in acquiring George by sending a trade package including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and multiple first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder. At first, Rivers and Ballmer was hesitant to make the deal, thinking that his team would be throwing away too many first-round picks for only one player. However, Rivers managed to convince Ballmer after telling him that in exchange for multiple first-round picks, they would not only be acquiring George, but also Kawhi Leonard.
From being a mediocre team in the Western Conference, the Clippers have turned themselves into a legitimate title contender with the successful acquisition of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this summer. However, the Clippers are not done yet in improving their roster. According to a previous The Inquisitr article, the Clippers are currently aiming to improve their second unit by signing veterans who remain available on the free agency market. Among their potential targets include Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert.