It appears it was Paul George’s plan to play with Kawhi Leonard all along, although it took some time to make that reality manifest.
George was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers this offseason to combine forces with the most recent NBA Finals MVP, but according to a newly-released interview with ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, it appears he had interest for years to play with Leonard.
George said he wanted to go to the Spurs over the Lakers. However, the Spurs could not offer an enticing package to push the deal through.
“I wanted to be traded to San Antonio. We wanted to go to San Antonio first, and we didn’t make that happen,” George said. “Since that moment, we were trying to pair up with one another. We were trying to make it work. I had obligations that I wanted to come back to Oklahoma and give it another shot, and then I felt that I needed to move on. I needed to go in another direction and I needed to at that point do what I wanted to do my whole career.”
Paul George: Lakers ‘Didn’t Make it Happen’
There was a long-established belief that George wanted to end up in Los Angeles, in particular with the Lakers.
However, George said that he hung on to the fact that the Lakers did not trade for him in 2017 when he was being made available by the Pacers. He instead ended up with the Thunder, who gave up Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo — future franchise pieces for Indiana.
“As for as the Lakers, I wanted to go to L.A. They didn’t make that happen, they didn’t put nothing together. And so, that’s in the back of my mind. That they didn’t trade for me,” George said. “When that next time came around, it wasn’t that it was a grudge, but I had other options and other guys talking. I was having meetings with other players and it made more sense to go elsewhere.”
Paul George, Kawhi Leonard Set for Debut Together
The Battle for L.A. is now at the center of the basketball world, with both the Clippers and Lakers being touted as NBA title favorites.
George has played three games, averaging 29.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists, maintaining the MVP ability he showed last season in Oklahoma City.
Leonard has played nine games this season, but has been banged up with a knee injury. The duo are planning to make their debut together on Wednesday night against New Orleans.
Despite not playing together yet, George noted that he’s got to know Leonard behind his monotone public persona.
“He really is a fun guy,” George says. “The legend is true, man. The legend is true. He laughs, he jokes, he talks mess.”
The Lakers have the best record in the NBA at 12-2, with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis flashing their all-world talent. One of those losses came to the George-less Clippers in the season opener, 112-102. The next matchup between the L.A. rivals is slated for the prime-time Christmas Day slate.