Los Angeles - Kawhi
Leonard and Paul George are joining the Los Angeles Clippers and the
NBA balance of power has shifted to a club that has never even reached a
As NBA teams began signing contracts Saturday with free agents
negotiated over the past week, spinning heads were still trying to cope
with a talent shakeup detailed in media reports all week that could
reset the league's top teams for several seasons to come.
Leonard agreed early Saturday to a four-year deal worth $142 million
with the Clippers, but only after they sent five NBA Draft picks, plus
Italian Danilo Gallinari and Canadian guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, to
the Oklahoma City Thunder to get George.
ESPN reported Leonard sought to have Kevin Durant join him with the
Clippers but the Golden State star, who will miss next season
rehabilitating from a ruptured right Achilles tendon, had already agreed
to a deal sending him to the Brooklyn Nets along with Boston's Kyrie
Leonard then sought out George, who stunned the Thunder by asking for
a trade. The Clippers had enough draft picks stockpiled to deal away
future talent to create an instant contender without losing the nucleus
of a team that reached the playoffs in 2019.
"This has been the craziest NBA summer ever!!!" tweeted free agent swingman Jamal Crawford.
The Clippers were pushed into the deal because they risked losing
Leonard to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would have joined LeBron
James and Anthony Davis in a "Big 3" Superteam line-up that would have
been clear title favourites.
Leonard, a 28-year-old forward, took less money than Toronto offered
to play alongside George, a 29-year-old forward, in their hometown.
By beating out the
Lakers and a pitch from Toronto to stay with the Raptors team he made
into a champion, the Clippers made themselves an oddmakers darling in a
league that saw Golden State reach the past five finals and Cleveland in
four until James departed last July for the Lakers.
Las Vegas Caesars Sportsbook made the Clippers a 5/2 favourite for the
2020 NBA crown, up from 10/1 contender, with the Lakers and Milwaukee
Bucks next at 4/1.
The Clippers, who also agreed to a two-year deal with Croatian centre
Ivica Zubac according to ESPN, added superstar skills to an already
solid team that went 48-34 last season.
The Clippers lost to Golden State in the first round of last season's
NBA playoffs. Formed in 1970, the Clippers have never won an NBA title
or even reached a conference final.
"Gotta love free agency," Clippers guard Sindarius Thornwell tweeted.
Leonard was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in leading the
Raptors to the crown and becomes the first NBA Finals MVP to switch
teams for the following campaign. He also won the award in 2014 in
leading San Antonio to the title.
Leonard averaged a career-best 26.6 points this past season along
with 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game. In the playoffs, Leonard
lifted his averages to 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds a contest.
George averaged 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and an NBA-best 2.2 steals a game last season.
The Lakers spent
their remaining salary cap funds to surrounding James and Davis with
supporting talent to ensure they will challenge for supremacy with the
Clippers, who share Staples Center arena.
The Lakers agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Golden State
center DeMarcus Cousins worth $2.3 million and a two-year deal with
guard Rajon Rondo to stay, ESPN reported Saturday.
Rondo, 33, helped Boston to the 2008 NBA title while Cousins, 28,
recovered from a torn left Achilles tendon last season after four
consecutive All-Star seasons.
Also joining James and Davis are swingman Danny Green, an ex-Clipper
who played for Toronto last season, on a two-year deal worth $30
million, and Golden State guard Quinn Cook on a two-year deal worth $6
The Lakers also kept Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on a two-year deal
worth $16 million and centre JaVale McGee on a two-year deal worth $8.2
"That LAL vs. LAC rivalry is going to be (fire emoji)," tweeted Kevin Love, a former Cleveland Cavaliers team-mate of James.