The Los Angeles Clippers changed the landscape of the NBA by signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George, but the moves they made to alter it almost never happened. In a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times, Doc Rivers detailed how the Clippers executed getting both Leonard and George, and how the trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for George was no easy task.
“The day of the trade at 12 noon the deal was off,” the Clippers head coach said via The Los Angeles Times. “I was at home in Malibu and [Frank] Lawrence called me and told me, ‘It looks like he’s either going to Toronto or the Lakers.’ The Lakers part just threw me over. I told him that can’t happen.”
The trade was reportedly on and off again throughout the day before the Clippers decided to move on from it at 6 p.m., accepting that there was nothing they could do to get George in a Clippers jersey.
“So I’m pulling into the parking lot and the phone rings and it’s Lawrence and he said, ‘Where are you?'” Rivers said. “I said, ‘I’m walking into Nobu.’ He said, ‘They have terrible reception there! Get out of there! Go somewhere with better reception. The deal is back on!’ So I go to the side of the road on PCH and we’re going back and forth and we got the deal done.”
That deal was a domino effect for the organization as Leonard’s one caveat for joining the Clippers was the team needed to add more talent to the roster for him to agree signing there. When the Clippers initially met with Leonard to pitch him on the idea of joining their team, the reigning Finals MVP said he wanted to play for them if they got another player to join him.
“He said, ‘I want to play for you,’ and he pointed at me,” Rivers said. “He said, ‘Mr. Ballmer, I love the things you do and what you stand for, but your team is not good enough and if you don’t change your team, I’m not coming.'”
Rivers said they showed Leonard a list of players they were considering targeting to team up with him, but as soon as he saw George’s name on the list he was sold on the idea. That’s when the Clippers offered the Thunder a massive deal in the amount of six future draft picks, as well as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, for George.
If that deal doesn’t go through, the Clippers would’ve lost out on securing Leonard’s services and they would’ve likely had to watch him suit up for the Lakers instead. Luckily for the Clippers, everything lined up perfectly for them as they’re entering the 2019-20 season as serious title contenders, something that is unfamiliar territory for a franchise that has long been considered the little brother in Los Angeles.