The Los Angeles Clippers clearly pulled the right strings in their free agency courtship of Kawhi Leonard, highlighted, of course, by acquiring Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder to give the reigning NBA Finals MVP a superstar to play alongside.
A deal didn’t always seem like a slam dunk, though, as there was ample speculation that Leonard either would return to the Toronto Raptors or link up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
So, what happened — other than the Clippers landing George? Well, it sounds like Leonard’s personality and aspirations synced perfectly with the Clippers’ short- and long-term vision, and a meeting with the organization’s primary influencers likely played a role in the 28-year-old’s final decision.
The Athletic’s Jovan Buha and Sam Amick detailed Leonard’s free agency in an in-depth piece published Tuesday. Among the topics addressed was a three-hour meeting Leonard’s camp had at Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ home in Malibu four days before the team landed the three-time All-Star and George in an offseason coup for the ages.
Leonard was joined at the meeting by his uncle and trusted confidant, Dennis Robertson, and his agent, Mitch Frankel. The Clippers’ attending group included Rivers, owner Steve Ballmer, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank and famed adviser Jerry West.
Here’s more on what transpired, including the questions Leonard’s camp asked, according to The Athletic:
The Clippers pitched Leonard on multiple points, including the way the franchise had conducted its business over the past two years; Ballmer?s competitiveness and willingness to spend any amount necessary to win; Rivers? coaching; the humble nature of the organization?s power players; their player services and player-centric environment; the benefit of being understated in Los Angeles; the front office?s shrewd decision-making and long-term plan; and the new arena the team plans to have built in Inglewood.
These are the types of questions Leonard and his inner circle asked, sources told The Athletic?s Shams Charania: What does the future look like to you? What does my future with your organization look like? How will your franchise shape the next phase of my career?
The Athletic made clear the face-to-face meeting wasn’t the Clippers’ first or last chance to land Leonard, noting the sides actually spoke every day during free agency about “roster hypotheticals,” among other things. Obviously, Leonard liked what he heard, though, otherwise he might’ve stayed in Toronto or taken his talents to the other franchise located in Los Angeles.