Kawhi Leonard, Paul George officially join LA Clippers | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World Sports

Kawhi Leonard, Paul George officially join LA Clippers

Associated Press
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AP
In this April 16, 2019, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George looks to pass the ball around Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Portland, Ore.
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AP
In this June 13, 2019, file photo, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard drives against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala during the first half of Game 6 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif.

LAS VEGAS — Paul George and Kawhi Leonard officially are with the Los Angeles Clippers, moves that bring both of them back to their native Southern California.

It might not be forever. Both can become free agents in only two years.

The Clippers completed their blockbuster trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, acquiring George for guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, forward Danilo Gallinari and five first-round draft picks — along with the chance to swap draft places in two other years.

“Paul George is one of the greatest two-way players in our game,” Clippers president Lawrence Frank said. “He is both an elite scorer and a relentless defender whose versatility elevates any team. When you have the opportunity to acquire a contributor of his caliber, you do what it takes to bring him home.”

George can become a free agent in 2021 if he chooses to exercise that option, and Leonard will be in the same situation. A person with knowledge of the situation said the deal Leonard signed Wednesday is a three-year max that could be worth nearly $110 million, though the third season is Leonard’s option.

The Athletic first reported the three-year term and option provision in Leonard’s deal. When Leonard decided he was leaving Toronto for the Clippers last week, he and the team talked about a four-year max worth $141 million. But this move, which would make Leonard a free agent after his 10th season, gives him the maximum amounts of flexibility and future earning power.

“This is a historic moment for our organization and our fans,” Frank said. “We are grateful and honored that Kawhi Leonard has decided to come home and join the L.A. Clippers. Kawhi is a peerless two-way player, a relentless worker and a natural fit for the serious, professional culture our group has established.”

Leonard will cost the Clippers a lot of money.

George is costing them a lot of money and a lot of picks.

The Clippers surrendered their first-rounder picks in 2022, ‘24 and ‘26, plus sent ones for ‘21 and ‘23 that were obtained through Miami, to Oklahoma City to complete the George trade. Oklahoma City also has the right to swap first-round picks with the Clippers in ‘23 and ‘25.

“From the time that Paul and his representation made us aware of what had been transpiring and their subsequent request, our focus as an organization was identifying the best paths for our future,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. “Resiliency has been a staple of our city and our franchise, and this challenge provided us with another opportunity to demonstrate that.”

The Thunder also now have a $10.4 million trade exception.

“Our goal with this transaction was to create value both in the short and long term and help reposition and replenish the organization’s future platform,” Presti said. “We are thrilled to welcome two extremely talented and efficient players in Shai and Danilo.”

It’s unclear if Presti is done making big moves this summer. The Thunder has engaged teams in conversations about the possibility of trading All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, a person familiar with that situation told the AP. Miami is one of the teams that has been part of those talks, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Thunder have not revealed specific details.

George averaged a career-best 28 points last season while dealing with shoulder issues that required surgery, and the Thunder couldn’t get out of the first round in either of his two seasons in OKC. George was a finalist for both NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year this past season, when he led the league with 2.21 steals per contest.

Leonard also is coming off the best season of his career. Leonard averaged a career-high 26.6 points in the regular season and was better in the playoffs, averaging 30.5 points for the Raptors in their run to the title. He won NBA Finals MVP honors for the second time, adding to the one he got as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2014.

“His expectation, and ours, is to contend for championships,” Frank said.

Categories: Sports | US-World
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