Clippers leadership -- Ballmer, Frank and general manager Michael Winger -- harbored fears that Presti was close to striking a deal with Toronto that would have delivered George to Leonard and the NBA champions, sources said. Had Presti been able to strike a deal for George with Toronto -- and Leonard was willing to stay -- George was believed to be willing to join the Raptors, sources said. Presti pursued a package of Russell Westbrook and George to the Raptors -- with the NBA's Most Improved Player, forward Pascal Siakam, as the centerpiece of a broader, asset-crippling deal -- but Ujiri couldn't keep up with the Clippers' willingness to unload unprotected first-round picks into the middle of the next decade, league sources said. Simply, Toronto didn't have the depth of picks it needed to get a deal done -- nor the certainty that getting George would make Leonard stay with the Raptors, sources said.
In the end, the Clippers' reservoir of draft picks and young players -- cultivated in the Blake Griffin trade and built on in the flipping of Tobias Harris to Philadelphia -- gave the Thunder a return that the Raptors couldn't match in trade talks, league sources said. Toronto's pressure was unmistakable: Allow George to get traded to the Clippers and risk Leonard walking into Staples Center arm-and-arm with George to take on James and Davis on the Lakers. This was a high-stakes game playing out across the league Friday night, with the future balance of power hanging.
Enter Paul George, the Oklahoma City star who sources say was heavily recruited by Leonard in those days leading up to his trade demand and this blockbuster deal that pairs the two of them with the Clippers. Talk about the least likely of pitchmen. The league’s quietest talent, the man whose one-of-a-kind laugh has been dissected like the Zapruder film and who so many were still convinced was a cyborg because of his robotic ways, got this deal done by selling a fellow Southern California native in the kind of way that left the Thunder with no choice but to make this move. “Kawhi recruited the hell out of him,” one source close to the situation said. “He did a number on Paul.”
Marc Stein: OKC acquired THREE unprotected first-round picks from the Clippers in this trade (2022, 2024 and 2026), league sources say, PLUS two firsts from Miami (2021 unprotected and 2023 protected 1-to-14) ... AND the right to swap picks with the Clips in 2023 and 2025. Staggering
Ryan Wolstat: Kawhi Leonard lost $90 million (Spurs and Raptors) to eventually team up with Paul George with the Clippers. Would never have happened in the old days when contracts weren't so high. Would have been way too much money to leave on the table. In era of $30-40M+/yr deals not as big.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Leonard and George met in LA earlier in week. Clippers had long been frontrunners for Leonard, but it is unlikely he would've made final leap to sign without PG trade. Clippers imagined Leonard as part of a Lakers Big 3 --- and knew they had no choice. They did OKC deal.
Adrian Wojnarowski: In the end, Kawhi Leonard didn't want to construct a Super Team with the Lakers. He wanted a co-star across the Staples corridor with the Clippers, and made it clear to Steve Ballmer and Lawrence Frank: Get PG, and I'm coming.
Sam Amick: Source, to @TheAthletic: After a heavy recruiting effort from Kawhi Leonard, Paul George made it very clear to OKC in recent days that this Clippers trade is what he wanted. He gets his trade demand fulfilled, and now Russell Westbrook's future is certainly in question.
Royce Young: There's a lot to parse through but the main thing is this: This was a blindside to most everyone involved, and after George made his request in the last few days the Thunder saw this as their best move forward rather than spend a season with a disgruntled star.
Ramona Shelburne: Paul George asked the Thunder for a trade within the last few days, and according to sources OKC felt it had no choice but to find a deal to reboot, rather than risk a bad situation all year long with an unhappy star
Brett Dawson: Paul George wanted to play with Kawhi Leonard, and the Thunder acted quickly to maximize what they could get out of that desire. I’ve not been told Westbrook is requesting a trade. But logic dictates as OKC loads up on picks and moves off George that it’ll look to move him.
Brett Dawson: Per a league source, the Thunder were caught off guard by Paul George’s desire to play with Kawhi Leonard after a strong recruiting effort from Leonard. The whole situation unfolded in recent days.
January 26, 2021 | 4:21 pm EST Update
After lengthy stays in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Mavericks Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell are listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game at Utah and will travel with the team Tuesday to Salt Lake City. Maxi Kleber remains in the protocol and will not travel to Utah.
Although the three returning Mavericks are all listed as questionable, coach Rick Carlisle said after Tuesday’s practice that he expects that all will get court time on Wednesday and then have their minutes ramped up in ensuing games. “It’s been a long road for these guys,” Carlisle said. “They’ve been through a big process. We’ve just got to get them back into it. There’s going to be a gradual aspect to it. They’re not going to be in game shape overnight, but it’s great having them back on the floor. It’s great having them back in practice. It’s three of our best defenders and most unselfish guys. Having them back in the fold is a big plus.”
Tommy Beer: Lozno Ball has been awful offensively this season… Just how incredibly inefficient, you ask? Ball is on pace to become just the second player in NBA history to log more than 30 minutes per game and shoot: * Below 40% from the floor * Below 30% on 3PT’s and * Below 60% on FT’s
January 26, 2021 | 3:30 pm EST Update
Feb. 6: most players who signed free-agent contracts in the offseason can begin to be traded. A team that is expected to be prominent in the trade market picture, rival teams expect: The New Orleans Pelicans. The franchise is off to an uneven 5-10 start to the season. New Orleans has been receiving calls about the availability of Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick and has shown an openness to discussing trades around both with interested teams, sources tell The Athletic. A move would create a clearer pathway for young guards Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis in the Pelicans’ rotation.