Report: Kawhi Leonard pursued George after first pitching Durant


Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard launches a pass during practice for the NBA Finals in Toronto on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Frank Gunn/CP)

The basketball world has known Kawhi Leonard to be a man of (very) few words.

We now know him to be pretty persuasive, too, as we continue to learn more about the league-altering news that broke overnight of Leonard signing with the Los Angeles Clippers — and convincing Paul George to join him. While the rest of us refreshed #KawhiWatch on a minute-by-minute basis all week, the two-time Finals MVP was (very) quietly trying to propel a masterplan into motion.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne shed some light on the timeline of it all in an extensive report published on Saturday, which suggests Leonard was pretty serious all along about going home to L.A. and was equally serious about acquiring a little help.

The first recruitment call was to Kevin Durant, just before the former Warrior was set to announce he’d be signing with the Brooklyn Nets.

Shelburne reported last week alongside fellow NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski that the pair of two-time Finals MVPs had discussed teaming up, and that the Clippers were indeed one of the possible destinations, and she reported on that story line further on Saturday:

“Durant was flattered and more than a little stunned, according to sources close to the situation. He didn’t know Leonard that well, so getting a recruiting call like that made a real impression.”Shelburne on Kawhi’s recruitment campaign

Durant, of course, announced his intentions soon after to go ahead with his initial plan of heading to Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving, which is when Leonard’s recruitment efforts in collaboration with the Clippers zeroed in on George.

Considering he was just one season into the four-year contract he’d negotiated with the Thunder last summer, it wasn’t as easy as George simply accepting a new deal. The 29-year-old requested a trade mid-week and, a few days later, was dealt to the Clippers.

From Shelburne:

At the same time he was meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors this week, Leonard was meeting, calling and texting with George, trying to convince him to find a way out of Oklahoma City.

Like Durant, George was flattered by Leonard’s recruiting. The two had a fair amount in common … Still, Leonard’s recruiting efforts caught George by surprise.

Said one source close to George, “For a quiet guy, he’s a hell of a recruiter.”

There’s no doubt Leonard has a lot of great basketball ahead of him. And, after that, perhaps a second career as an agent.

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