Kawhi Leonard Was 'Very Close' to Choosing Raptors, Lakers Over Clippers in Free Agency

Leonard said it wasn't until the Clippers told him they had acquired Paul George that he decided to join the team.
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How Much Praise Should Steve Ballmer Receive For Clippers Turnaround?Kawhi Leonard almost didn't choose to join the Los Angeles Clippers when free agency began this offseason.

During a sit-down interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols, Leonard said he was "very close" to choosing the Lakers or Raptors instead of the Clippers.

"I was very close. Real close," Leonard admitted. "But when [the Clippers] presented the opportunity of playing with Paul, it was easy, it was a yes. I said let's get it going."

Leonard, 28, had been linked to the Lakers, Nets, Knicks and Raptors prior to his decision to sign with Clippers.

The Clippers acquired George from the Thunder for a record-setting collection of draft choices on July 6. The trade helped the Clippers sign Leonard, who had been recruiting George to Los Angeles. George approached the Thunder following Leonard's push and requested a trade from the team.

George said on Wednesday that joining Leonard in Los Angeles felt "like destiny." Leonard reiterated those feelings during the sit-down interview.

"It's still surreal," he said. "Just to be able to have Paul on my team and being back home and playing, it's just a great experience. It's probably going to be my first time playing with an elite player his level, around the same age as me, same talent. I'm excited to play."

The 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Leonard spent seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs before being traded to the Raptors prior to the 2018 season. He appeared in 60 games for Toronto in the regular season and averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists en route to an NBA Finals win.

In addition to being a two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, Leonard earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2015 and 2016, is a three-time All-Star and has two All-NBA first-team selections.