Kawhi Leonard, Paul George Sign With Los Angeles Clippers, Reports Say
Leonard, a free agent after winning the NBA title with the Toronto Raptors last month, kept the basketball world waiting for his decision.
He was said to be choosing between a return to Toronto, the Clippers and their rival Los Angeles Lakers.
ESPN and multiple other outlets also reported that Leonard will be joined by forward Paul George in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, giving the Clippers two superstars to rival the Lakers’ LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Leonard’s decision marks the end of a dramatic week of NBA free agency which began with stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving also teaming up to join the Brooklyn Nets.
That decision left the New York Knicks without the star they had coveted to finally chase a championship.
But it’s Los Angeles that will now be the center of the NBA universe.
The Lakers pulled off a trade for Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans last month to pair him with LeBron James. They had hoped to add Leonard and create a superteam.
But instead Leonard and George will reportedly form a title threat of their own in Staples Center, vaulting the Clippers into the NBA elite.
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.
The Toronto Raptors — fresh off Canada’s first title — will now look to pick up the pieces without the transformative Leonard, who they themselves acquired just a year ago in a trade from San Antonio.
Leonard is entering his ninth NBA season, is a three-time All-Star, a two-time champion and one of only three players in league history to win the NBA Finals MVP award with multiple franchises.
Notoriously a man of few words, at least publicly, Leonard is generally considered to be the best two-way player in the NBA — dominant on the offensive end, airtight on the defensive end.
Max Burman is a news and homepage editor for NBC News.
Associated Press contributed.