Free-agent superstar Kawhi Leonard and the reigning NBA Finals MVP has chosen to sign with the L.A. Clippers instead of the Toronto Raptors or L.A. Lakers, the three teams that were in the running for his services.
The deal was announced by ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski today (Sat).
The Leonard decision clearly showed he valued playing closer to home rather than making more money — and for the chance to play with MVP finalist Paul George, who was acquired by the Clippers in a trade for five first-round picks, which is a staggering price to pay.
The Raptors could have offered Leonard a five-year contract for $190 million, while the most the Clippers could offer was a four-year deal for $142 million, which Leonard agreed to.
28 year old Leonard, was also greatly influenced by the chance to play with George.
Published reports said that the reason why Leonard was taking so much time to make his decision was that he was trying to recruit George to join him with the Clippers.
It was apparently a wild night of negotiations as the Thunder leveraged the Clippers and Raptors off each other, with the Raptors not willing to part with the league’s Most Improved Player, Pascal Siakam, in a reported package offer with George and Russell Westbrook.
League sources told Wojnarowski, George and Leonard wanted to play together, and George and his agent, CAA’s Aaron Mintz, approached Thunder general manager Sam Presti in recent days and requested a trade.
The Clippers had reportedly come to believe that, without a deal for George, Leonard was prepared to sign with the Lakers and create a super team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
If that report is true, it leads one to think that the Raptors were not Leonard’s first or second choice. But the third choice. And there will inevitably be questions around how much behind-the-scenes maneuvering Leonard was doing while holding off his decision.