The LA Clippers are making a blockbuster trade for Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, clearing the path for free agent Kawhi Leonard to sign with the Clippers on a four-year, $141 million contract, league sources told ESPN.
In an 11th-hour move to keep Leonard from partnering with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers are trading four future unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick and two pick swaps to the Thunder to get George, league sources said.
The Clippers are sending Oklahoma City their unprotected 2022, 2024 and 2026 picks, their unprotected 2021 and protected 2023 first-round picks via Miami, and the rights to swap picks with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025, league sources said.
George and Leonard wanted to play together, and George and his agent, Aaron Mintz, approached Thunder general manager Sam Presti in recent days and requested a trade, league sources said. Leonard wanted to walk into a championship contender, and he believed George was the co-star he wanted by his side.
George thanked the Thunder organization and teammate Russell Westbrook in a social media post on Saturday night.
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Thank you Oklahoma for 2 great years, you took me in as one of your own from the day I touched down. Thank you to the fans who make representing those 3 letters mean something. Thank you to Sam and Clay for being the best management a franchise and player could ask for. Thank you to the friends within the organization that took care of my family and I whenever we needed help. The picture shown is a bond that can't be broken I truly loved and enjoyed the race from start to finish. Thank you OKLAHOMA! You already know what it is @russwest44! Love brodie!
George could miss the first few weeks of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, league sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
With Friday night's additions, Staples Center appears set to be the most starry arena in the NBA: Leonard and George vs. James and Davis.
Leonard had held meetings with three teams he planned to sit down with in free agency, sources said. He met with the Clippers, Lakers and Raptors over the past week, with Toronto receiving the final meeting, league sources said.
Leonard's camp essentially tried to buy time, asking the Lakers as late as 9 p.m. PT (midnight ET) on Friday to delay the consummation of the Davis trade until "as late as Sunday," sources close to the situation told Shelburne.
No reason was given for that delay by Leonard's camp, except that the Lakers should do it if they still wanted Leonard to consider them.
The Raptors, who won the championship with Leonard at the helm last season, thanked the departing superstar and key role player Danny Green, who said he was signing with the Lakers, in a statement Saturday.
"We are very thankful for the year that Kawhi and Danny played with us here in Toronto, and I know the city and the entire country of Canada are grateful for everything they did to help us to win our first NBA Championship," president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said in the statement.