NBA Clippers sign Kawhi, finalize trade deal for George

AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) - Kawhi Leonard and Paul George made their move to the Los Angeles Clippers official on Wednesday, with the NBA team announcing Leonard's signing and George's trade deal with Oklahoma City.

Details of Leonard's contract were not revealed by the Clippers, but ESPN and The Athletic website said Leonard's deal was for three years and not four as originally thought when the decisions were unveiled last week.

The reported three-year deal worth $103.1 million, rather than a four-year contract for $142 million, and times with George's 2018 deal for four years at $136.9 million to give each player an opt out clause ahead of the 2021-22 season, according to unamed sources in the reports.

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If true, the Clippers could offer Leonard four years at $196 million in 2021 and pitch George a five-year deal worth $254 million at the same time.

"This is a historic moment for our organization and our fans," Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said.

Leonard, who is from Los Angeles, departed the Toronto Raptors after leading them to the NBA title in his one season with the Canadian club after a trade from San Antonio.

"We are grateful and honored that Kawhi Leonard has decided to come home and join the L.A. Clippers. Kawhi is a peerless two-way player, a relentless worker and a natural fit for the serious, professional culture our group has established," Frank said.

"Having him on our side is a tremendous privilege and a massive responsibility, one we will take very seriously. His expectation, and ours, is to contend for championships."

Leonard reportedly would not agree to the deal unless the Clippers obtained George and they did by dealing Canadian guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Italian forward Danilo Gallinari and five future first-round NBA Draft picks to the Thunder for George.

"Paul George is one of the greatest two-way players in our game," Frank said. "He's both an elite scorer and a relentless defender whose versatility elevates any team.

"When you have the opportunity to acquire a contributor of his caliber, you do what it takes to bring him home. Paul is a native of the Los Angeles area and an ideal fit for the Clippers, thanks to his selflessness and drive.

"We've plotted an aggressive course to build a championship contender and acquiring Paul is a critical step."

- Defensive stalwarts -

Leonard, 28, won the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award in 2014 with San Antonio and last month with the Raptors. He was also the 2015 and 2016 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Leonard averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists for Toronto in the playoffs after producing 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists during the regular season. For his career, the 2011 NBA Draft's 15th pick has averaged 17.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

George, 29, averaged career highs of 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals with the Thunder last season. He was among the NBA's to defensive talents with four deflections and 2.7 loose ball recoveries a game.

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