Kawhi Leonard sat down with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols and said that he was “very close” to choosing the Lakers or the Raptors over the Clippers.
The deciding factor? The Clippers presented the opportunity to play with Paul George, which made it “an easy go.”
In the days since the groundbreaking news was revealed that Kawhi Leonard would be signing there, and the Clippers were also trading for Paul George, there has been much speculation around how the idea of Paul George to the Clippers came about.
George leaving OKC made a whole lot of sense in hindsight. During his two seasons in OKC, the team suffered two disappointing first round playoff exits. With the Thunder absolutely strapped against the salary cap, and not much shooting on their roster, the team did not have many avenues to improve the roster. George and Westbrook were well aware of this and allegedly spoke to Thunder management at the start of the offseason about this issue.
Reports say George is the one who approached Thunder management and Sam Presti about a trade, and Presti agreed, because he too realized that this current version of the Thunder was not going to go very far.
“This was nothing that came out of the blue; we were all on the same page,” George told Nichols. “The initial plan was to give it another year, see what we could do, and I did that. We played another year, and it felt like we were just stagnant. Next thing was, let’s move forward with other plans.”