While the city of Toronto was breaking into pandemonium and following Kawhi Leonard with a helicopter, the Los Angeles Clippers were nervously watching.
The Clippers were concerned about Leonard’s trip to Toronto on the Raptors’ private plane, according to a new report from The Athletic’s Jovan Buha and Sam Amick. Los Angeles was also threatened by Danny Green waiting for the Kawhi domino to fall before making his decision.
Even as the Clippers were pulling off one of the biggest moves the NBA has ever seen, they still felt there was a legitimate chance Leonard was re-signing with the Raptors. Instead of just hoping the two-time Finals MVP would decide to return home to Los Angeles, the Clippers decided to swing for the fences, and it paid off — at least for the time being.
Leonard was frank about what he was looking for in free agency: a team that would give him the best chance at winning as many championships as possible for the rest of his prime. Geography, money, organizational culture and personal accolades were all secondary factors. As has been reported in the past, the trust to keep negotiations under wraps was also something Leonard and his camp valued, and the Clippers came through in that regard.
In their report, Buha and Amick also detail the “frantic five minutes” in the waning hours of July 5 that saw the Clippers agree on the framework for the Paul George trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Once that deal took shape, Los Angeles relayed the message to Leonard, who then committed to signing with his hometown club.
The Clippers pulled the trigger on both moves and dramatically changed the landscape of the NBA.
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