The news sent shockwaves throughout the basketball world late Friday night into the wee hours of Saturday morning when, those who were still awake, learned that Kawhi Leonardhad decided to take his talents to the Los Angeles Clippers — and he’d recruited Paul George to come with him.
It’s a stunning series of events that instantly transforms the landscape of the NBA.
The Clippers, with their new stars and an A-level supporting cast, become title favourites. The Los Angeles Lakers are left scrambling to fill out their roster, while the Toronto Raptorsare left empty-handed with many questions facing the franchise and where to go from here.
With a day to digest it all...
Toronto Street - reacts to Kawhi leaving
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne dishes on the machination of the Paul George trade that sealed the deal for Leonard, while diving into what this entire free agent drama meant for the teams, fans and Leonard himself:
The chance to contend for a championship creates a gravitational force in moments like these. Two years earlier, [Thunder GM Sam] Presti had felt that same pull, when he traded for George as part of an effort to keep Russell Westbrook and rebuild after losing Kevin Durant to free agency. Last year, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri had felt it, as he weighed whether to give a core group that had experienced countless playoff disappointments one more crack at it with Leonard as a leading man. The Lakers had felt it just a few weeks earlier, when their chance to pair LeBron James with Davis was finally upon them. Now it was the Clippers’ turn. Was it time to eschew caution and trade away virtually every asset they had for George — and the chance to close on Leonard? How would they feel if they didn’t take the shot and Leonard chose the Lakers instead?
Leonard has become something of a Rorschach test the past couple of seasons. What you see in him is as much a reflection of who you are, as it is of him. He reveals little about himself, but everything about those who project on to him.
The Lakers saw a chance to build a dynasty around Leonard, Davis and James.
The Raptors saw a king, one they hoped would want to defend the championship ring he won in his lone season with them.
The Clippers saw a chance to reshape themselves and their place in the NBA.
In the end, though, this was about what Leonard wanted. His choice was more revealing of his character and ambitions than anything he could ever say.
He went home. And he didn’t go alone.
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