Kawhi Leonard Unfazed by Paul George’s Departure to the 76ers: ‘It’s No Surprise’

Kawhi Leonard Unfazed by Paul George's Departure to the 76ers: 'It's No Surprise'Unfazed by Paul George's Departure to the 76ers: 'It's No Surprise'
Image Credit: Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard was well aware of the contractual dynamics involving Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers, so George’s decision to leave in free agency didn’t catch him off guard, as Leonard told reporters in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

“We knew what it was before the season,” Leonard stated. “We knew what it was going to come down to, so we talked the whole way through. It’s no surprise.”

When asked about the added responsibility in leading the team without George, Leonard responded, “How much will be on me to lead the team? The same like it was last year. It don’t change.”

Leonard, who officially withdrew from Team USA on Wednesday, joined the Clippers alongside George in 2019. Leonard signed as a free agent, and George arrived via a blockbuster trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In January, Kawhi Leonard signed a three-year extension worth approximately $150 million and had expected both George and James Harden to remain with the Clippers.

Harden secured a two-year, $70 million contract this offseason. However, the Clippers and George failed to reach an agreement. George detailed the negotiations on his podcast, revealing that the Clippers did not offer him the same deal Leonard received during the season. After the season ended, they offered the deal, but George requested a no-trade clause, which the Clippers declined to include. George stated he would have stayed if the Clippers had either agreed to the no-trade clause or matched the four-year, $212 million deal he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers.

George also mentioned that the Clippers initially offered him a two-year, $60 million deal before the 2023-24 season, which would have required him to pick up his $48.8 million player option for 2024-25, effectively making it a three-year, $108.8 million deal. While this wasn’t as low as it seemed, it still undervalued a player of his caliber.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, an assistant coach with Team USA, expressed his disappointment to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk in Las Vegas, stating it would be “hard to replace” George.

“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to get the deal done, disappointed he didn’t come back,” Lue said. “It’s tough for the organization. We got to see how we move forward from here. I talked to him many times, trying to see what his mindset was, what we need to do different, how we can help his process along. It’s unfortunate that he left.”

Despite the loss of a nine-time All-Star, the Clippers’ front office has been proactive. Alongside re-signing Harden, they have added forward Nicolas Batum, forward Derrick Jones Jr., and center Mo Bamba. They have also reportedly agreed to sign guards Kris Dunn and Kevin Porter Jr. and re-sign center Kai Jones.


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