Last night (July 5), California was the epicenter for all that’s shaking literally and figuratively. The state endured its strongest earthquake in 2 decades, but that wasn’t the only news to come late that night. Kawhi Leonard made some earth-rattling news as well, finally revealing that he will sign a four-year, $141 million max contract league sources told ESPN. The critical component that brought the Klaw to LA wasn’t no celebrity pitch or a reported promise of having a stake in a record label, but instead, the Clippers securing Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade that took everyone by surprise in the 11th hour.
So much for those experts saying the Lakers were the front runners.
The bombs ESPN’s NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski dropped in the form of Tweets announcing the Clippers quick return to basketball dominance by landing both Leonard and George sent immediate shockwaves, not just through the NBA, but the entire sports world. In a report, Woj details that after Leonard failed to convince now Brooklyn Net, Kevin Durant to team up with him, he informed the Clippers that if they want him to sign they would need to get Paul George as well. Not wanting the Lakers to acquire the 2-time finals MVP — pretty much making them a secure lock to win an NBA title — the Clippers proposed in a trade to send four future unprotected first-round picks, a protected first-round pick and two pick swaps plus point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari to OKC. PG and his agent went to the Thunder front office — confirming the aloof superstar was doing his own heavy recruiting — to demand a trade and rather risk keeping the two-way player and souring the locker room, they quickly pulled the trigger.
Despite big names like Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving all making their free agency decisions already, Kawhi Leonard was still the biggest domino to fall. A lot hinged on his decision, with ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne revealing that Leonard’s team insisted that if the Lakers want a shot at signing him, they would have to hit the pause button the Anthony Davis trade but didn’t give a reason as to why.
Another very eye-opening tidbit that might have Drake pulling out his beard is that Toronto had a chance to keep Leonard plus land both Russell Westbrook and Paul George, but Raptors president Masai Ujiri balked at the deal.
“Had Presti been able to strike a deal for George with the Raptors — and Leonard was willing to stay — George was believed to be willing to join the Raptors too, sources said. Presti had been willing to pursue a package of Russell Westbrook and George to the Raptors, but no talks ever gained traction, sources said. Ujiri and Raptors GM Bobby Webster had no ability, nor inclination to counter the Clippers offer with a multitude of first-round picks into the middle of the next decade, league sources said.”
With Leonard and George joining the Clippers is more WIDE OPEN than ever before. With the Warriors, not the scary squad they used to be, the Nuggets, Rockets, Jazz, Trailblazers and Lakers who added Danny Green once Kawhi made his decision all getting better we are looking at a very competitive Western Conference. But make no mistake, the battle for Staples Center dominance has gotten much more exciting, and we are already looking forward to the 2019-20 NBA season.
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