MANILA, Philippines – In one of the most highly-anticipated signings of the 2019 NBA off-season, free agent superstar Kawhi Leonard has reportedly chosen to join the Los Angeles Clippers, US media reports said.
But the Clippers pulled off a major coup by also bringing in Paul George, the Oklahoma Thunder star that Leonard reportedly wanted to have as a partner.
According to NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Thunder will get a “massive package of future picks, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Galllinari.”
Leonard, the two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, had been strongly tipped to join the Lakers. Instead, the Leonard-George combo now faces another powerhouse Los Angeles duo in LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Free agent forward Kawhi Leonard has informed runners-up teams of his plans: He's signing with the Clippers, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
George, a Most Valuable Player finalist last season, reportedly had a strained relationship with fellow Thunder star Russell Westbrook.
Leonard, meanwhile, leaves Toronto after one of the most productive one-and-done seasons in league history.
In his lone year with the Raptors, the former Defensive Player of the Year held the fort and led the team to their first NBA championship in franchise history after defeating the Golden State Warriors in 6 games.
The “Fun Guy” indeed made it fun for the Raptors fan base after averaging 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in 24 playoff games.
Kawhi Leonard has been recruiting Paul George to find a way to get to the Clippers and LA pulled it off tonight: George goes to the Clippers with Leonard, and together they walk into Staples Center to go head-to-head with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
Rival NBA teams have been aware of the discontent of OKC's two stars: Paul George — and Russell Westbrook, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Leonard pushed the Clippers in recent days to deliver him a second star, and they did.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 6, 2019
Leonard, who grew up in Riverside, California just outside of Los Angeles, will join a young Clippers team that will give him a similar starring role to what he had with the Raptors.
He will be vying to be one of the few players in NBA history to win titles with 3 different teams as he won his first one with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, and at 22 years old, was named the youngest Finals MVP since Magic Johnson in 1980.
Leonard is expected to sign a four-year, $142 million contract with the Clippers. – With a report from Agence France-Presse