Kawhi Leonard shifted the NBA landscape by signing with the Los Angeles Clippers this summer. Fresh off bringing a title to Toronto, Kawhi became the first person to ever choose the Clippers over the Lakers. Fresh off hosting his daughter's wedding, Doc Rivers spoke to the Los Angeles Times about what went into landing Kawhi. Via LA Times:
"I got a lot of credit, and so did Jerry West, but the guy that was the hero in all this was Lawrence Frank,” Rivers said. “He did all the work. He had Steve Ballmer going to Raptors games and he went to some, too. We were warned that no more Clippers players, coaches or employees could go to games in Toronto. We were sending guys to go sit the stands. “There was nothing wrong with what we were doing, but Steve Ballmer sitting courtside in Toronto seemed a little strange. But we didn’t say a word. We just wanted [Leonard] to know we were there and we were interested.”
In addition to being banned from Toronto, the Clippers also looked into buying Leonard's signature logo from Nike. When they finally got their in-person meeting, they showed Kawhi a list of players who they thought he would fit with. He picked Paul George and they were stuck. More from the LA Times:
“We showed him everybody else and he didn’t want to hear it. He just stayed on Paul George, so after the meeting we sat down and I said, ‘We got to get Paul George. I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we have to do it.’
George was one year into a 4-year max deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ramona Shelbrne reported that Kawhi then went about recruiting Paul George. A few weeks later that report was refuted. Paul George apparently decided he wanted to go to the Clippers on his own, with three years left on his deal. It certainly sounds questionable.
Earlier this week during Bill Simmons' podcast with Malcolm Gladwell, Simmons shared this story after Gladwell brought up Kawhi Leonard.
SIMMONS: There was something that happened this summer. I won't say, I won't say the teams, but a player went from one team to another and there's just a lot of smoke. And there's a lot of smoke that dates back a lot of months and a lot of very clear - this isn't Conspiracy Bill, this is things that were brought up in certain meetings that made people go wait a second. There's just a lot of smoke and they... what happened this summer cannot happen again. You cannot have - GLADWELL: Which deal are you talking about? SIMMONS: I'm not saying which team. But by the way there is more than one team. I think multiple teams were the maddest they've probably... we had more mad teams this summer that feel like last season was actually compromised in some way for them by players having one foot out the door.
Here's the audio:
Well, the Kawhi Leonard - Paul George - Los Angeles Clippers situation certainly seems like something that would leave multiple teams upset. The Raptors won the title, but they were definitely annoyed by the Clippers during the season. The Thunder got a great return for Paul George, but there was clearly tampering going on. Then there were the Lakers, who probably felt they had a shot at Kawhi. And how far back could this go? Might the San Antonio Spurs have been dealing with the Clippers in Kawhi's ear while he sat out most of the '17-'18 season?
In the end, they got their man(s). Only the Clippers and Kawhi really know how long it took and it's unlikely they ever tell us. So all we can do is assume that they did everything that has been reported and more. The question is, what can the NBA do about it?