Paul George-to-Clippers official as Thunder GM drops subtle hint at tampering

Paul George officially is a Clipper, joining new superstar teammate Kawhi Leonard, the team announced Wednesday.

The confirmed blockbuster deal: The Clippers get the six-time NBA All-Star from the Thunder for guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, forward Danilo Gallinari and the Clippers’ first-round draft picks in 2022, ’24 and ’26, along with two first-round choices via Miami (2021 and ’23), and OKC obtained the right to swap first-round picks in 2023 and ’25

The Clippers’ news release came with the obligatory quote from LA president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank: “Paul George is one of the greatest two-way players in our game. He is both an elite scorer and a relentless defender whose versatility elevates any team.”

George, who made sure he left Oklahoma City on the right foot, previously had thanked the Thunder after spending two seasons with the team, writing in part on Instagram: “Thank you Oklahoma for 2 great years, you took me in as one of your own from the day I touched down.”

Thunder GM Sam Presti on Wednesday issued a statement (via The Oklahoman) in which he closed, “The Thunder thanks Paul for his contributions to the organization and our community. We are proud that Paul is part of our history as an organization and that some of his best basketball of his career was in Oklahoma City. He should be remembered fondly; we wish him and his family the best.”

But how Presti began his statement was a lot more interesting: “From the time that Paul and his representation made us aware of what had been transpiring and their subsequent (trade) request …”

Longtime sports journalist and NBA-watcher J.A. Adande tweeted: “I like the subtle shade of the phrasing ‘what had been transpiring.'”

Bleacher Report senior NBA writer Howard Beck retweeted Adande with the not-so-subtle hashtag #tamperpalooza.

Let’s just throw a question mark in there: What had been transpiring?

George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, called the Thunder to request a trade on behalf of his client, according to ESPN, which cited unidentified sources, but only after Leonard was heavily recruiting George to join him with the Clippers, even though George had signed a four-year deal with the Thunder last offseason. 

Speaking at an NBA media conference Tuesday in New York, NBA commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the issue of players under contract requesting trades, as new Laker Anthony Davis did last season and more recently, as George did with OKC. Silver doesn’t like it, but admits there’s no simple solution.

“I will say, without getting into any specific circumstances, trade demands are disheartening,” Silver said. “They’re disheartening to the team. They’re disheartening to the community and don’t serve the player well. The players care about their reputations just as much.”

The Thunder could have denied George’s request and tried to make it work, but they reportedly were concerned it could turn into a situation similar to Davis’ departure from the Pelicans.

As Presti said in his statement Wednesday: “(O)ur focus as an organization was identifying the best paths for our future.”

Oklahoma City finished the regular season sixth in the Western Conference with a 49-33 record. They suffered a disappointing early exit from the playoffs, eliminated by the Trail Blazers in five games.

George averaged 28 points on 43.8% shooting. He also averaged 8.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 77 games last season.

But Leonard, apparently determined to return to Southern California but reportedly never going to sign with the Lakers, saw George as the best shot to help him win — and win quickly, based on his reported contract terms — with the Clippers.

What transpired to make that happen is part of the current landscape of the NBA.