Kawhi Leonard was juggling a lot this past week.
The star was not only mulling over what team he would chose, but an ESPN report suggested meetings leading up to his eventual decision to join the Clippers were close — literally.
Leonard made trips to California and back to Toronto to have talks with the Lakers, Clippers and Raptors. He also had to accommodate Paul George, who nearly upstaged Leonard’s free-agency announcement with his own decision to join the recent NBA champion in the West.
According to the ESPN report, Leonard had to relocate a meeting between Lakers executives Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka so he could meet up with George later that day.
The Lakers meeting with Kawhi Leonard was Tues afternoon at a hotel in Westlake Village. Only Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka were there, at KL’s request. The location had been switched from El Segundo, at KL’s request, w/ in 24 hrs. It appears KL met with PG, nearby, same day.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 6, 2019
But George wasn’t the only player Leonard was after.
Before Kevin Durant committed to the Nets, he got a call from Leonard asking “if he’d consider teaming up with him” and signing with the Clippers, according to another Ramona Shelburne report.
Leonard seemed to have his eyes set on the Clippers for some time. He told Durant the two would “be great complements to each other,” Shelburne noted, and that “he’d always admired him and had tremendous respect for him as a competitor.”
While Durant never bought in to Leonard’s pitch, it shows how heavily the ex-Raptor was recruiting other stars to join him in LA.
“Leonard’s ambition in trying to recruit Durant to the Clippers suggested he was serious about joining LA in free agency. But it also suggested that they needed to get him another star.
“After the Clippers met with Leonard for approximately three hours at head coach Doc Rivers’ house in Malibu on Monday night, both sides went to work to make that happen. At the same time he was meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors this week, Leonard was meeting, calling and texting with George, trying to convince him to find a way out of Oklahoma City.”
As Durant fell out of the picture, the George trade began to take place.
George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, had called the Thunder to request the move on behalf of his client a few days ago, according to another ESPN report, which cited unidentified sources.
This time, Leonard’s pitch worked even though George had signed a four-year deal with the Thunder last offseason.
The two will now team up with the likes of Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Ivica Zubac, who re-signed with the team after it landed Leonard.