Rumor: Russell Westbrook was also an early Clippers target to pair with Kawhi Leonard, but Leonard preferred Paul George
The Kawhi Leonard summer of mystery still is the gift that keeps on giving, even two weeks after he announced his commitment to the LA Clippers. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Clippers also eyed Russell Westbrook as a potential partner for Leonard, but Kawhi preferred Paul George:
“Sam, I began to hear in the days leading up to Kawhi’s commitment in the early morning hours of July 6 that he informed the Clippers that he would sign with them — if they were able to acquire a second star. Russell Westbrook and Paul George became early targets, I was told, but Leonard identified George as the player to get. And once the Clippers received word that Leonard was choosing them, they did whatever they could to ensure his commitment stuck.”
If the Clippers were to get Leonard, the Thunder were going to have to strip away one of their two stars, though who really knows how GM Sam Presti would have reacted if it was Westbrook instead of George asking for a trade.
Both players are Los Angeles-area natives, with Westbrook coming by way of Long Beach and George being from Palmdale.
It’s likely that Leonard preferred to play with a player who wasn’t ball-dominant, allowing him to equally share the wealth with a two-way star who can defend and produce offense at a high rate like George has proven throughout the course of his career.
The Clippers might have also had a tough time matching salaries for a player who will make $170 million over the next four seasons, rather than dealing with George’s remaining $106 million over the next three.