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Kawhi Leonard leaving Raptors for Clippers: source

Tim Reynolds, The Related Press
Revealed Saturday, July 6, 2019 3:19AM EDT
Final Up to date Saturday, July 6, 2019 10:28AM EDT

LAS VEGAS — The Los Angeles Clippers made an enormous choice.

That meant Kawhi Leonard may lastly make his.

The Clippers shall be touchdown Leonard as a free agent after they purchase Paul George from the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder in an enormous commerce for gamers and draft picks, an individual accustomed to the negotiations stated.

George shall be traded for not less than 4 first-round picks, in line with the one that spoke to The Related Press on situation of anonymity early Saturday as a result of not one of the strikes have been finalized. And Leonard made his choice to signal with the Clippers after the staff swung the deal to land George, the individual stated.

ESPN, which first reported the commerce, additionally stated the Thunder have been getting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari from the Clippers.

Leonard going to the Clippers signifies that for the primary time, a reigning NBA Finals MVP shall be altering groups earlier than the next season. Leonard was additionally being pursued by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors, the staff he led to final season’s NBA title.

Probably the most the Clippers can supply Leonard is $142 million over 4 years, which is the deal he’s anticipated to signal. Gamers can signal with new groups as early as midday Jap on Saturday.

“New adventure in OKC,” Gallinari tweeted.

Leonard is getting into his ninth NBA season, is a three-time All-Star, a two-time champion and one in all solely three gamers in league historical past to win the NBA Finals MVP award with a number of franchises.

Notoriously a person of few phrases, not less than publicly, Leonard is mostly thought of to be one of the best two-way participant within the NBA — dominant on the offensive finish, hermetic on the defensive finish.

His game-winning, four-bounce-off-the-rim jumper to beat the buzzer in Recreation 7 of the Jap Convention semifinals in opposition to Philadelphia was maybe the signature second of this previous season’s playoffs.

And he simply turned 28 final week — nonetheless very a lot in his prime.

So, too, is George.

The 29-year-old — who’s owed roughly $105 million for the subsequent three seasons — spent the final two years alongside Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma Metropolis. George averaged a career-best 28 factors final season even whereas coping with shoulder points that required surgical procedure, and the Thunder could not get out of the primary spherical in both of these seasons.

He was a finalist for each NBA MVP and Defensive Participant of the 12 months final season, when he led the league with 2.21 steals per contest.

A California native, going to the Clippers and pairing with Leonard means he’ll have an actual probability of being on a title contender.

The Lakers did not wait lengthy earlier than beginning to transfer on from their quest for Leonard. Danny Inexperienced introduced that he’s signing a two-year take care of the Lakers, that means he, too, is leaving Toronto.

“Kawhi has made his decision. Seems like the announcement is out,” Inexperienced stated in a video he posted to his social media accounts. “It’s time for me to make my announcement … I will be teaming up with new teammates in LA, the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Inexperienced stated he loved Toronto and that it was unlucky how free company turned out for that metropolis, the Raptors and for Canada.

“LA, here I come,” Inexperienced stated.

Right here comes Leonard — a Southern California native.

Leonard was, by far, the most important title left on the free agent market. The opposite marquee names on this class like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker all made their selections recognized comparatively rapidly.

And like Durant, Irving and Walker, he is altering addresses.

His lone season in Toronto was one of the best of his profession, answering each query about his well being after a leg subject restricted him to solely 9 video games with San Antonio in 2017-18. Leonard averaged a career-high 26.6 factors within the common season — and was even higher within the playoffs, averaging 30.5 factors for the Raptors of their run to the title.

“Last year, a lot of people were doubting me,” Leonard stated after the NBA Finals. “They thought I was either faking an injury or didn’t want to play for a team. That was disappointing to me that that was out in the media, because I love the game of basketball.”

The Raptors took a significant probability in buying Leonard final summer season, since they weren’t on his unique listing of most popular groups when he informed the Spurs that he wished to be moved elsewhere after spending his first seven seasons with them and serving to them win the 2014 NBA title. DeMar DeRozan was the most important piece that Toronto gave up in that deal, with Raptors President Masai Ujiri making the most important transfer of his profession.

It delivered a title. However that wasn’t sufficient to make Leonard keep in Canada for the lengthy haul.

“He’s the best two-way player in the NBA,” Ujiri stated in the course of the NBA Finals.

Leonard was merely dominant within the post-season, posting 14 video games of 30 or extra factors. Solely Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kobe Bryant had postseasons with extra 30-point video games — Jordan had 16 of them in 1992, Olajuwon had 16 in 1995 and Bryant had 15 in 2009.

The Raptors made clear: They thought of Leonard the highest participant within the recreation, and he carried out at a stage worthy of that moniker.

“Obviously, we have the best player in the league and the best player in these playoffs in Kawhi Leonard,” Raptors ahead Pascal Siakam stated after Toronto gained the title.

They will should defend the title with out him.

It is a huge blow to Toronto’s possibilities of back-to-back titles, and clearly places a damper on the Lakers’ low season quest as properly — regardless that they may finalize a commerce Saturday to herald Anthony Davis from New Orleans and landed the kind of shooter than LeBron James craves by including Inexperienced.

“I’m going to come out and play the right way,” Leonard stated final month. “I’m not trying to make headlines.”

Attempt or not, he is a part of the summer season’s largest headline now.

And he could also be about to make the Clippers contenders as properly.

——

AP Sports activities Author Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma Metropolis contributed to this report.

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