A couple of months after Kawhi Leonard joined the Los Angeles Clippers, head coach Doc Rivers revealed details of his meeting with Leonard.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rivers said that the Los Angeles Clippers, knowing the Oklahoma City Thunder “wanted to break their team up,” offered Kawhi Leonard a list of players to choose from. The list included Paul George, and although Rivers wasn’t sure they could actually get him, Leonard wanted to play with PG13 on the Clippers.
“Which was a mistake, but we got lucky,” Rivers said. “We shouldn’t have had a list, because then he got to choose who he wanted to play with. And the assumption was that we could get them. We didn’t know if we could get anybody. We just showed him guys that we thought would match him and when he saw Paul George’s name he said, “‘I want to play with him.'”
In July 2018, the Thunder signed George to a four-year, $137 million contract extension.
“We showed him everybody else and he didn’t want to hear it. He just stayed on Paul George,” Rivers said of Leonard. “So after the meeting we sat down and I said, ‘We got to get Paul George. I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we have to do it.’ We did know that Oklahoma City wanted to break their team up, so that helped. But we didn’t know if we could get him.”
Leonard’s biggest condition to join the Clippers was to assemble a stronger squad than they had at the moment, and he wanted the Clips to upgrade the team if they wanted him to come.
“Kawhi said, ‘I want to play for you.’ And he pointed at me,” Rivers told the Times. “He said, ‘Mr. Ballmer, I love the things you do and what you stand for, but your team is not good enough, and if you don’t change your team, I’m not coming.'”
Doc Rivers on meeting Kawhi Leonard at Rivers' home in Malibu: "He said, ‘I want to play for you,’ and he pointed at me. He said, ‘Mr. Ballmer, I love the things you do and what you stand for, but your team is not good enough and if you don’t change your team, I’m not coming.’"
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) September 19, 2019
The Clippers gave up on Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, four future unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick, and two pick swaps to get Paul Geroge, and therefore, Kawhi Leonard.
H/T: The Los Angeles Times