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Report: Winning championships was more important to Kawhi Leonard than playing close to home

Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

The entire NBA world had waited nearly seven long days on Kawhi Leonard’s decision earlier this July. His decision came down to both his hometown Los Angeles squads, the Lakers and the Clippers, and the team he just won a championship with, the Toronto Raptors.

Leonard was very careful making his decision, placing the entire league on hold as he weighed his options. In a special insider report by The Athletic, winning championships was apparently the top priority for the reigning Finals MVP, more so than playing close to home as many had believed:

Leonard was upfront that his decision would come down to the organization he believed presented him the best competitive window for the rest of his prime. The conversation at Rivers’ house centered on winning above all else — over money and geography and culture and accolades. Playing close to his home of Riverside, while a significant factor, was secondary to winning championships.

In a competitive sense, the Clippers trailed the Raptors and the Lakers on paper, even though the Clippers believed they could still contend for championships by only adding Leonard to a core that won 48 games and pushed a healthy Golden State Warriors squad to six games in the 2019 postseason.

The Lakers had the LeBron James-Anthony Davis duo that could guarantee title contention if Leonard joined, and the Raptors’ formula — while probably not sustainable for the long haul — was proven. Leonard’s trip on the Raptors’ private plane to Toronto and back to Southern California a day later raised the Clippers’ concerns. So, too, did Danny Green’s decision to wait out Leonard’s outcome. The Clippers felt there was a legitimate chance Leonard was staying in Toronto.

Through the lead up to Leonard’s announcement, analysts and experts who claimed to have insider information on Leonard’s camp claimed that his decision was ultimately down to the Lakers and Raptors. With the Purple and Gold, Leonard had the chance to create arguably the greatest Big Three ever with himself, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. The Raptors, on the other hand, already had the proven formula for a championship.

The Clippers didn’t have the championship-caliber roster to match up with the appeal of the Lakers and the Raptors. However, the Clippers, in shocking fashion, pulled the heist of the decade by acquiring Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder, which got Leonard to sign up as well.