NBA rumors: Tyronn Lue expects Paul George, Kawhi Leonard to stay in LA long-term

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.

More on Paul George Trade

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.

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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
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.
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
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.
Isaiah Thomas: OMG
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.
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.
Ekpe Udoh: Omgoodness ✌🏿
Miles Bridges: WOAHHHHHHHHHHH 😳😳😳
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