Over the weekend the LA Clippers pulled off a monster trade for Paul George that led to the signing of Kawhi Leonard.
We’re learning more about Kawhi’s thought process during free agency and it seems like he was always focused on joining the LA Clippers despite earlier reports.
According to Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star Kawhi asked the Raptors to trade for either Paul George or Bradley Beal but the team felt they were being used as leverage and that Kawhi had already made his decision to leave.
Via The Star
Sources say Kawhi’s camp asked the Raptors earlier this week about the possibility of acquiring George or Washington’s Bradley Beal. Team president Masai Ujiri considered the request.
But as the Kawhi camp also made escalating demands, the Raptors began to feel that Kawhi and his people were focused on Los Angeles. Kawhi was in Toronto from Wednesday to Friday, and was indeed on the company plane as it flew back to San Diego on Friday morning. No short-term contract was discussed.
The ask for George was astronomical: Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and four unprotected first-round picks, before they even started matching up salaries to account for George’s higher number. Perhaps that would have been where Westbrook came in, but not likely.
It was a gargantuan demand. The Raptors never got the sense that OKC was truly serious about making a deal; they felt that it was more likely they were being used as leverage. For the last two to three days, sources say the Raptors did not believe Kawhi was truly serious about returning to Toronto. In the end, the Clippers were willing to surrender more.
Arthur goes on to report that Kawhi and his Uncle Dennis had their eyes set on the Clippers since during the playoffs.
. During the playoffs, and even the Finals, sources indicate Kawhi and his adviser and uncle Dennis Robertson were focused on the Clippers, even as Toronto’s championship run unfolded. During the playoffs Robertson was overheard more than once in the post-game back-hall melees talking about leaving; even after Game 4 in Philadelphia, where Kawhi made the first of two shots in the series to save the season, and during the Finals. The Clippers planned to pair Kawhi with 76ers wing and Kawhi’s friend Jimmy Butler, and the Kawhi camp gauged Butler’s interest repeatedly. Sources indicate they were in contact even after the NBA Finals.
Apparently Kawhi never seriously considered the Lakers because he did not want to play on a super team with LeBron and was concerned with the dysfunction in the organization.
. Yes, the Lakers made noise early in the week after striking out on Butler themselves. LeBron James reportedly offered to defer to Kawhi, with Anthony Davis as the third MVP-level player in the trio. But Kawhi was said to be concerned about the dysfunction in the organization, and two sources say Kawhi did not want to play on a super team with LeBron. The Lakers were also the only team who leaked anything during the process, which more than anything indicated they had no idea who they were really dealing with.