Saturday July 6, 2019
NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is signing with the Los Angeles Clippers, ESPN reported early Saturday.
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.
Both Leonard and George are California natives.
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.
President Donald Trump even weighed in on the news on Twitter Saturday morning, praising legendary Clippers executive Jerry West.
West was previously in the front office of the Lakers when they built championship teams, and the Golden State Warriors when they signed Durant in 2016.
Trump also tweeted support for Clippers coach Doc Rivers, saying he was a "Great Coach, Great Guy!"