Kawhi Leonard was THE acquisition of NBA Summer Free Agency.
Some thought he’d join the Lakers, some thought he’d stay with the Raptors and then there were the select group of folks that had the gut instincts to predicate that he’d join the Los Angeles Clippers, which he did.
Now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, Leonard joins Paul George, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet and Maurice Harkless on a loaded LA team.
Coached by Doc Rivers, the team is potent. They went toe-to-toe with the Golden State Warriors in this spring’s NBA Playoffs.
“I found out when everybody else found out. But when I saw he was signing with the Clippers, one guy: Jerry West.”
Ah, yes…Jerry West; the NBA’s logo!
The NBA Hall of Famer, NBA Champion and 14-time NBA All Star has been the architect of many pivotal deals as general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers.
For those tardy to the party: In his front office role, West is quite responsible for creating the great 1980s Lakers dynasty, which brought five championship rings (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988) to the purple and gold.
He was also integral for the Lakers’ success in the 90s and 2000s alo.
West traded Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets on NBA Draft Day in 1996 in a deal that brought Kobe Bryant to LA LA land.
He also signed O’Neal to the Lakers and brought Phil Jackson to LA as their head coach, as well.
Currently a special consultant with the Los Angeles Clippers, West recently told the Dan Patrick Show that he had a “very small” role in the Los Angeles Clippers’ signing of Kawhi Leonard.
Nevertheless, Leonard signed a three-year, $103 million contract with the other LA team and recruited Paul George who waved goodbye to the Oklahoma City Thunder by demanding to be shipped out to LA via OKC.
A big summer for the Clippers, indeed.
That made The Big Diesel, The Big Shaqtus, The Big Aristotle; whatever Shaq us calling himself these days remember when he left the Orlando Magic for the Los Angeles Lakers.
“All Jerry West did was tell the truth,” Shaq told me.
“So when I was leaving Orlando, he brought me here and told me the truth. I would have a young team and a guy named Kobe. That guy’s going to be good but in a couple of years you’re going to have championships. It wasn’t no ‘get you this or get you that.’ Jerry’s not that type of guy.”
Shaq even laid out how Jerry West probably got Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers:
“Jerry probably said: ‘I’m working on a deal to get you Paul George. You’ve seen what the team did last year. You know what type of guy Doc is. This is your hometown. We would like to have you.'”
That’s likely what got Kawhi Leonard to commit to the Clippers after winning an NBA Championship last month with the Toronto Raptors. Almost a year ago, the San Antonio Spurs shipped Leonard to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan.
A year later, Leonard has his second NBA Championship and second NBA Finals MVP on his second team.
Now on his third team, here’s the billion dollar question: Is three times the charm?
Well it starts with infrastructure.
The Clippers earned the respect of many. “I enjoy going to Clippers’ games,” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne told Scoop B Radio this spring.
“I think the Clippers are one of the best watches in the NBA. They play hard, they have a great system, they’re always working together, you don’t see people ball-hogging it, and they have this pick-and-roll between Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams.
“I think Lou Williams is fun, Montrezl might be one of my favorite players these days, he’s a really good dude, didn’t know he had all that kind of offensive game when he came into the league, right? Like you see this energy guy, but he plays hard.”
Jerry West does have a special consultancy role with the Clippers, the credentials of those within the Clippers’ front office is quite adequate.
Insert LA Clipper President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank, team general manager Michael Winger and assistant general managers Mark Hughes and Trent Redden.
That’s a lot of experience. Whether West had the final say in the decision making and recruiting process, he has the respect of many. “Jerry is very honest,” Shaq told me.
“Kawhi seems to be a guy who loves honesty. Gregg Popovich is very honest and very open. So Jerry and Pop are similar. He probably spoke Kawhi’s language. So I found out when everybody else found out. I thought he was going to the Lakers or the Knicks or possibly stay in Toronto but when I saw he was signing with the Clippers all I knew was, good move Jerry West.”