By Guest Contributor, Tom Young @tomsyoung
He has done it again! Kawhi Leonard has led his third team to the NBA title – the first in Los Angeles Clippers’ history!
That sounds pretty good to me.
The NBA changed early Saturday morning (UK time, at least) and so did the City of Angels. This was meant to be the year of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers. But that all went up in smoke as the little brother, Los Angeles Clippers put the pieces in place to land, not only the biggest free-agent of the summer (who will actually be able to play next season), but a second surprise superstar too.
With most free agent moves being done within a few Woj-tweets, it was Kawhi Leonard that held back until the end of the moratorium; plotting and planning his next move with the Lakers, Toronto Raptors and Clippers all clambering to sign him.
The Lakers wanted him to complete a “Super Team”. The Raptors had already curried favour and won the title with him. But perhaps it was the combination of flexibility, talent and a large market franchise with less media attention (than their neighbours) which probably swung it in the Clippers favour. He is, of course, also an LA kid.
Presented with no further comment: pic.twitter.com/dyYUdbXLye
— Russell ⛹🏼♂️ (@zrpClippers) July 8, 2019
Leonard has already shown he can lead a team to a chip…twice, but for the first time he was in control of who joined him and he flexed it in dramatic fashion. Welcome to the new NBA front-runners, Paul George!
The Clippers gave up a king’s ransom – four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-rounder and the rights to swap two picks alongside Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – but it was all necessary to get Kawhi and team him up with one of the best forwards around. Both Gallinari and SGA were important parts of reaching the playoffs last season, but getting Paul George is something different all together.
PG was an MVP candidate last season, all-NBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team and an All-Star. An elite two-way talent. That is why it was worth it.
George and Kawhi with Patrick Beverley, Maurice Harkless, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams? This team is going to play hard on defense and pound the paint on offense. Any team that can’t hang with rough and tough will be marched out of the Staples Center before the game starts. I can’t wait.
The mantle of NBA title favourites has been passed around in the last few months. If Golden State had kept Durant and neither he nor Klay had suffered injuries, then they’d have continued their dynasty. If the Raptors had been able to convince Kawhi to stay and can hold on to Masai Ujiri, then they’d have had a shot; Kawhi. LeBron and Anthony Davis have teamed up on the Lakers, that core alone has them odds-on to contend, but what about the lack of support they’ve got from the other guys?
What about the 76ers? Can the be a threat from beyond the arc? The Bucks? They’ve still got to prove they belong. The Nets? Durant is likely to miss the whole season. Houston and that combustable locker-room?
It is by no means a lock for the Clippers to lift the Larry O’Brien next June… But, you know what? For #ClipperNation, it is a lock.
Mr.Logo, Mr.Jerry West you different in that office
— Montrezl Harrell (@MONSTATREZZ) July 6, 2019
Feature photo – USA TODAY Sports / Old Sport Republic / Double Clutch illustration – Matthew Wellington