Coming to Los Angeles, NBA champ Kawhi Leonard had the luxury of picking between two teams that actively courted him. He could have gone to the Lakers and win titles thereby joining forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But Leonard picked the Clippers, and for a mighty good reason.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers recently recounted how the former Toronto Raptors superstar found his way to the team owned by the flamboyant Steve Ballmer. At the 11th hour, Rivers had been told that Leonard had been lost. The chance was higher that the 2019 Finals MVP would return to Toronto rather than sign up with the Clippers.
Or he could go to the Lakers superteam, a specter Rivers said was hard to imagine. "We cannot allow that to happen," Rivers was reported by Yahoos Sports as saying, recalling the conversation he had with Clippers top honcho Ballmer.
"I actually told Steve jokingly that if that happens, we're moving the team to Seattle. It was a joke, but I was actually serious about it. I really believed that," Rivers further revealed.
Yet as it turned out, there was no need to plan a transfer. For starters, while Ballmer has fond memories of Seattle on the strength of his stint as Microsoft CEO (the tech giant is headquartered in Seattle) the boss has earlier declared no intention of leaving LA.
Yahoo said Ballmer had professed "he will die owning the LA Clippers," indicating there was no place to change camp. So as far as the team owner is concerned, while he's in charge the Clippers will remain an LA club.
But really the chief reason Leonard picked the Clippers was his desired to team up with a certain player. Rivers said that meeting with Leonard prior to signing him up, the All-Star was presented with a list of potential trade targets. The list included Paul George and upon seeing the name, it seemed Leonard made a decision on the spot.
"We showed him everybody else and he didn't want to hear it. He just stayed on Paul George," Rivers was quoted as saying Bleacher Report.
Rivers added Leonard had made clear he wanted George to join the Clippers, quoting The Claw as saying, "I want to play with him."
And so Ballmer and company went on a mission to make sure that the Oklahoma City Thunder will ship George to the Clippers, and when the deal was sealed Rivers knew getting Leonard on board would be the easy part.
Leonard and George are now with the Clippers and partly that happened because the former had expressed intentions he would love to play for Doc Rivers too, and that's according to Rivers himself.