On this episode of The HoopsHype Podcast, Alex Kennedy is joined by Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Jovan wrote a terrific piece (with Sam Amick and Shams Charania) that gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the Los Angeles Clippers managed to land Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. He discusses what happened every step of the way, other stars the Clippers tried to land before acquiring George and more. Time-stamps are below!
0:50: Jovan said this is the biggest article he’s written and it was his first time co-reporting a story like this. He discusses his reporting for the piece and how it came together.
8:40: The Clippers were very aggressive and upfront about targeting Leonard. Jovan talks about Los Angeles’ approach as well as how important it was for the Clippers to change their culture and how they’re perceived.
14:35: At the start of free agency, the Clippers’ front office had a three-hour meeting with Leonard at Doc Rivers’ home. Jovan shares some details from that meeting and what the Clippers’ pitch entailed.
18:30: Jerry West has played a huge role in historic free-agent signings like Shaquille O’Neal to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. How involved was he in the Clippers’ pursuit of Leonard and George?
21:25: There were some reports early in the Leonard sweepstakes that the Clippers were out of the running or panicking. Was this inaccurate or did LA feel like landing Leonard was a long shot before acquiring George was on the table?
24:20: Before acquiring George from the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers inquired about James Harden, Bradley Beal and Jrue Holiday as they searched for a second star to team up with Leonard.
28:00: We now know that the Clippers wanted Marcus Morris and made him a significant, multi-year offer. What happened? Is it for the best that the Clippers instead acquired Moe Harkless and a first-rounder (which they sent to the Thunder as part of the package for George)?
31:00: The Clippers sent five first-round picks (three of their own and two from the Miami Heat) and two first-round pick swaps to the Thunder. Were the Clippers hesitant to give up this much? Are they concerned at all that Leonard and George can leave as free agents after two years?
39:28: Steve Ballmer has played a crucial role in the Clippers’ transformation. Jovan talks about what he’s done to turn this franchise around and how Los Angeles going from Donald Sterling to Ballmer may be the biggest owner upgrade in sports history.
43:05: Breaking down the Clippers’ new arena in Inglewood (the Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center), which Ballmer hopes to make the premier arena in the world.
46:30: It seems like the Clippers are going all-in on this group and understandably so. Will they continue to aggressive on the trade market and buyout market? Jovan gives an update on the Clippers’ pursuit of Andre Iguodala, who’s still with the Memphis Grizzlies.
52:30: Lee Jenkins was one of the best sportswriters in the country before leaving journalism to accept a role with the Clippers’ front office. His title is Executive Director of Research and Identity. What does that entail?