With so few avenues to make significant moves, some executives wonder: What if Leonard wants the Clippers to dump George in order for him to re-sign long-term? It’d be a heck of a power play. But we’ve seen this before from Kawhi when he first joined the Clippers.
A Western Conference executive floated the idea of the Clippers trading Paul George this summer if the team failed to meet expectations. Hence, a possible McCollum to the Clippers package. And if Miami can’t lure a Lillard deal, McCollum could be an option there, too.
The numbers are eye-popping nonetheless. When George turns 35 (his 15th year in the league) he will be making nearly $49 million. All you have to do is glance at Russell Westbrook and John Wall to see how that kind of deal could backfire on a team quickly. According to a front office source, there was chatter around the league that the Clippers did their due diligence in seeing what they could get on the market for George before deciding that the extension was the best option.
One front office staffer said that, despite the ugly numbers on the back end of George’s deal, the market for George around the league would have likely gotten him that same contract elsewhere. George is a number two that you have to pay number-one-level money.
That same front office member did say they were puzzled by the fact that the Clippers were both doing the extension now and giving George as player-friendly a deal as possible. “I don’t see why you don’t let things play out,” they said. “I can’t imagine he’d be itching to get out of LA next year.” George, for his part, said he wanted the deal done before the season because he’s “a player that don’t play for contracts.”
If there was friction between George and some of his teammates, as has been reported in several places, it seems to have been somewhat minimized by the roster moves and the Clippers, sources say, remain fully committed to George as part of their program.
Tyronn Lue opened up the possibility of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George remaining with the Clippers for many years. The head coach of the Clippers believes the two superstars will stay with the team long-term.
“I think Kawhi and PG are going to stay for a long time. I think in their situation and where they want to be, it’s here with the Clippers.
Royce Young: Paul George’s trade to the Clippers is official. Lawrence Frank in a statement: "Paul George is one of the greatest two-way players in our game ... when you have the opportunity to acquire a contributor of his caliber, you do what it takes to bring him home.”
Bruce Arthur: Updated: Oklahoma City asked for Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and four unprotected first-round picks as a starting point for Paul George. The Raptors believed they were being used as leverage, and believed Kawhi finally, truly wanted LA. And then he left.
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.”
It became clear later, sources said Friday night, that George and Leonard had been engaging in conversations about playing together. Within the last week, sources said, Leonard sold George on the notion of pairing up on the Clippers — a sales pitch strong enough George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, communicated to OKC a desire to trade his client.
If George didn’t get his wish, would he be fully engaged? And if he wasn’t, would he go public with his trade demand during the season? That worst-case scenario could have left the Thunder with a disgruntled superstar undercutting his own trade value. There was no easy way out for Oklahoma City. But there was a strong sense, sources said, the Clippers needed George to secure Leonard. And that gave the Thunder some leverage that was unlikely to be available in the future.
George demanded this trade of the Thunder, making it clear in recent days that if they didn’t cooperate he would keep looking for ways to join Leonard in these final two seasons of his contract (he has a player option for 2021-22 worth $37.8 million). They worried about the alternative scenarios, about what those trade offers might look like next year once everyone knew that he had wanted out.
Westbrook and George's relationship remained strong throughout, and had little to do with George's trade request, according to sources. George played the best basketball of his career last season, blossoming into a duel candidate for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. His season, and the Thunder's, changed when he injured both shoulders after the All-Star break. He played through the injuries, but had surgery on both shoulders (rotator cuff on one side, labrum on the other) after the season. He doesn't have an official timetable yet to return to play, but the Thunder were preparing for him to possibly miss the start of next season.
Some time in the last few days, George's agent, Aaron Mintz, called Thunder general manager Sam Presti and requested George be traded. It was a complete and total blindside to the Thunder, but came because Kawhi Leonard had been working to recruit George to join him with the Los Angeles Clippers. In the end, despite George signing a four-year deal with the Thunder last summer, he remained a free agent.
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.
Bobby Marks: Timeline for LAC 1. Leonard will sign with cap space 2. Danilo Gallinari/Gilgeous-Alexander for Paul George using the 125% trade exception
Ira Winderman: Remember, Clippers have Heat's unprotected 2021 and lottery-protected 2023 to package. The first one originally was in the 2015 Dragic trade, the latest for the salary dump to add Jimmy Butler.
Oleh Kosel: Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN right now: "Paul George came to the Thunder in the last couple of days and asked to be traded to the Clippers. He wanted to play with Kawhi Leonard."
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Oklahoma City is getting a massive package of future picks, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Galllinari, to deliver Kawhi Leonard who he wanted to partner with: Paul George.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Clippers are sending the Thunder four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick and two pick swaps, league sources tell ESPN. Those picks go to OKC with Gallinari and SGA.
Shams Charania: Rival NBA teams have been aware of the discontent of OKC's two stars: Paul George -- and Russell Westbrook, league sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. Leonard pushed the Clippers in recent days to deliver him a second star, and they did.
Adrian Wojnarowski: After Leonard pushed George to find a way to get to the Clippers, Paul George approached the team and requested a trade, league sources tell ESPN. OKC was left with no choice and made the best out of a difficult situation, per sources.
September 25, 2021 | 12:12 pm EDT Update
Darren Wolfson: Sachin Gupta wants Ben Simmons. The same hurdles remain, but can he now be more creative on three-team scenarios? That still seems to be the key. But make not mistake: Gupta is all in on acquiring Ben Simmons.
Darren Wolfson: (Gupta) is going to work his ass off to try to acquire Ben Simmons and he has full authority to do so. Glen Taylor, Marc Lore, Alex Rodriguez… Trust me, they’ve given him the green light
Tommy Beer: The Knicks announced this morning they have inked Wayne Selden to a deal. He played for NY’s entry in LV summer league. Sources say it is a non-guaranteed training camp contract. The Knicks now have 20 players on their training camp roster, the max allowed by the league. .
But Len and Lopez are gone, leaving Unseld with new arrival Montrezl Harrell, from the Lakers, and slightly-less-new arrival Gafford, who joined the Wizards from the Chicago Bulls at the trade deadline last season and made an immediate impact with his energy, athleticism and ability to slam lobs. Sheppard told The Washington Post in an interview this week that the Wizards would like to add a third center to shore up the spot with Bryant not expected back until winter, but for now, Gafford is Washington’s starter.
The Heat are among the least flexible teams in the league in terms of being able to make in-season moves. After rehauling their roster to sign Lowry and Tucker, extending Butler and signing many players to minimum contracts, they only have three players on the roster that can currently be traded. Theirtrade flexibility will open up in December and January once free agents that were signed become eligible to be traded, but they severely lack tradeable salaries. After their starters, most of whom seem very likely not to be moved, their next highest salary is Tyler Herro at $4.0 million. His salary combined with several of their minimum players will heavily limit the type of return they can get in a trade. They are also just $6.6 million below the hard cap, which is another factor that could hold them back from adding significant money to the payroll.
Darren Wolfson: As for the relationship Gupta with head coach Chris Finch. They were together in Houston. I’m told they have a rock solid relationship. Gupta thinks the world of Finch, Finch thinks the world of Gupta
Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert says the NBA can come knocking on his door any time it wants … telling TMZ Sports he ain’t scared of the league’s “random” drug tests!! Of course, it’s become quite the trend in the Association — you post a jacked pic on Instagram, you get “randomly” hit up for a test.