By now the story of the 2019 NBA Finals must still be fresh. One the one side was the two-time consecutive defending champions the Golden State Warriors, aiming to do a three-peat. On the other was Finals first-timer the Toronto Raptors, invigorated by the idea that they could take the NBA championship out of the US for once. Ultimately the Canadian team succeeded in their objective. But as they prepare for the next season to keep their hands on the prize, they would have to do it without one of the architects of their victory, after Kawhi Leonard departed to play on the West Coast.
By that we mean that on Wednesday, July 10, Kawhi Leonard officially joined the Los Angeles Clippers. The L.A. Times reports that the former San Antonio Spur and now ex-Raptor has signed on to the Clippers for a $103 million contract lasting three years, with a player option on the last season (NBA 2021-22), as shared by an insider on the deal. This was the culmination of a months-long chase on part of the Clippers to gain the ace from San Diego State who would become a two-time champion and three-time all-star in the NBA.
Lawrence Frank, basketball operations president for the L.A. Clippers, described the acquisition of the free agent Leonard as a historic moment for their franchise. This had been further sweetened by the additional signing of Paul George, who was traded to them from the Oklahoma City Thunder. His contract is similar to Leonard’s with the 2021-22 player option. The once-Raptor could utilize the player option when the NBA season in question comes in order to renegotiate for a contract that is worth the max 35% salary cap for any team of his choice, as is provided for him after passing his tenth season in the league.
During his college days it was Kawhi Leonard who turned San Diego State into an NCAA powerhouse with his presence and skills. His coach at the time, Steve Fisher, opines that Leonard’s decision to go with the Clippers was a manifestation of a personal desire to one day play ball for a West Coast team again, after time in San Antonio and Toronto. Frank is sure, judging from Leonard’s college time at San Diego and his recent championship drive with the Raptors that he can do the same for the Clippers this upcoming NBA season.
“Having him on our side is a tremendous privilege and a massive responsibility,” Frank speaks of Leonard, “one we will take very seriously.” To prove that the franchise went through the steep trading cost for Paul George from the OKC Thunder, all on Leonard’s recommendation. The two will be introduced as Clippers players next week.
Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated