Another Leonard target: Kyrie Irving.
He recruited George, Durant and even Kyrie Irving at points, sources say.
Durant and Irving reportedly decided before last season to play together. They reportedly chose the Nets months ago.
So, Leonard was fighting an uphill battle.
I wonder whether there was any talk of both Durant and Irving joining Leonard on the Clippers. Even with an empty roster, L.A. wouldn’t have had enough cap space to give all three max contracts. But Irving took less than his fully guaranteed max salary, and the Clippers could have gained spending power by acquiring Durant through a sign-and-trade (like Brooklyn did). The Clippers didn’t have a D’Angelo Russell to send the Warriors, but perhaps L.A. could’ve unloaded salary elsewhere and enticed Golden State with a the creation of a huge trade exception.
Getting even one obviously didn’t happen, but it’s interesting to know how wide Leonard looked for a co-star. George is a great get.
One element that could help get a deal done: Westbrook’s interest in Miami.
Brian Windhorst on ESPN2:
From what I understand, he’s supplied a list to the Thunder with a few teams on it, a short list. But the Heat are at the top of it.
The Thunder can trade Westbrook anywhere. He doesn’t hold a no-trade clause. With four years remaining on his contract, he can’t scare off teams by threatening not to re-sign.
But it sounds like they’re working with him. Westbrook has meant so much to the franchise, especially after Kevin Durant left. I believe Oklahoma City would prefer to send him somewhere he wants to go.
What other teams were on Westbrook’s list? That’s the big question, as I’m not convinced the Thunder would prioritize trading Westbrook to his first choice over other approved destinations.
Five years ago…
The Clippers were embroiled in Donald Sterling’s scandal. There was talk of players boycotting. The whole franchise seemed toxic.
The Nets were entering years of pain. They’d traded several future first-round picks for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who promptly declined and left the team in the basement. Brooklyn looked hopeless.
Suddenly, the Clippers and Nets are the NBA’s freshest powers after major offseason coups. Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers and convinced Paul George to request a trade to accompany him. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined Brooklyn through free agency.
This level of star grouping in a single summer is unprecedented.
A team has added two reigning All-NBA players in the same offseason just three times:
- 2019 Clippers: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
- 2019 Nets: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving
- 2014 Cavaliers: LeBron James and Kevin Love
The stories look similar in L.A. and Brooklyn this year.
Leonard wanted to return to his native Southern California, and he got George – another California native – to come along. Durant might resent the notion he was recruited, but playing near New Jersey is a homecoming for Irving. It seems Durant prioritized playing somewhere with Irving.
The big difference between this year’s situation and the Cavaliers in 2014: No incumbent star attracted Leonard, George, Durant and Irving to their new teams. Cleveland had Irving as a draw for LeBron and eventually Love.
The Clippers were starless. The Nets had no All-Star until D’Angelo Russell was named an injury replacement, and they weren’t keepinh him if landing Durant and Irving. (Russell got sent to the Warriors in a double sign-and-trade.)
That’s another way these situations are unprecedented.
Just eight teams have added multiple reigning All-Stars in the same offseason since the NBA-ABA merger. The preceding six already had an incumbent star who helped build the appeal:
|Year||Team||Stars added||Incumbent star|
|2019||LAC||Kawhi Leonard, Paul George|
|2019||BRK||Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving|
|2017||OKC||Paul George, Carmelo Anthony||Russell Westbrook|
|2017||BOS||Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward||Isaiah Thomas*|
|2014||CLE||LeBron James, Kevin Love||Kyrie Irving|
|2012||LAL||Dwight Howard, Steve Nash||Kobe Bryant|
|2010||MIA||LeBron James, Chris Bosh||Dwyane Wade|
|2007||BOS||Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen||Paul Pierce**|
*The Celtics traded Thomas for Irving, but Thomas was integral in recruiting Hayward in the first place.
**Pierce wasn’t an All-Star in 2007 due to an early injury, but he was an All-Star the five preceding and five following seasons and played like one while healthy later in 2006-07. Not counting him as a star in 2007 would be true only as a technicality.
Yet, Leonard and George chose to be the stars on the Clippers. Durant and Irving chose to be the stars on the Nets. They didn’t follow anyone already in place.
This is an unintended consequence of the shorter contracts owners pushed for. They give players more opportunities to change teams and value new situations like this. This is also a continuation of LeBron exercising his power, first by joining Wade and Bosh on the Heat then by closing up shop in Miami and forming a new super team in small-market Cleveland.
Maybe it can’t happen anywhere. It’s no coincidence the Clippers and Nets play in the two largest markets.
But the Lakers and Knicks are still the most prestigious franchises in Los Angeles and New York. The Clippers an Nets didn’t even win a playoff series or get one star first to lure others.
It’s a new era in the NBA – one where top talent is ready to come together and assert itself.
Wherever that may be.
Those people should hold their horses.
At another point in the discussions this week, the Thunder asked the Heat to include two among Herro, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow, according to a source in touch with one of the two teams. The Heat also is opposed to including Adebayo, whom Erik Spoelstra ranked among the best centers in the league in the final months of last season.
Though the Heat very much would like to add Westbrook, OKC’s demands have resulted in a stalemate in conversations as of Wednesday evening.
Westbrook is 30, already showing signs of decline and owed $171,139,920 over the next four years. He no longer fits in Oklahoma City, which appears ready to rebuild after trading Paul George primarily for draft picks.
The Thunder can ask for a lot of return. They probably won’t get it.
The Heat probably view Adebayo as alone too valuable to include in any Westbrook trade construction. They also just signed Herro to his rookie-scale contract, meaning he can’t be traded for 30 days. That seems like a message to Oklahoma City. Winslow, a solid player who’s still trying to find his lane and is young enough to develop further, makes most sense in a deal. He’s the highest-paid of the three, and aggregating enough salary to match Westbrook’s and stay below the hard cap will be challenge.
The big question: When will the Thunder reduce their demands?
Miami still looks like frontrunners to get Westbrook. But that could change if Westbrook begins the season in Oklahoma City. More teams could enter discussions Dec. 15, when most players signed this summer will become eligible to be traded. Miami’s current advantage is having so many expensive players – Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Dion Waiters and Winslow – to deal now.
The Heat must still appease the Thunder, and that’ll apparently take some tough negotiating.
Did Durant get his revenge, not just by leaving for the Nets, but by demanding Brooklyn get more return in a double sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell?
First, Durant initially balked at being traded for Russell straight up, multiple sources said. He didn’t think it was a fair deal, and in this case, the Warriors had to not just satisfy the Nets, but also Durant.
Leverage was applied by the player, and Golden State had to include a first-round pick before Durant would agree to sign off. The Warriors begrudgingly gave it up and did so with a heavy condition: If the pick falls within the top 20 next year, they don’t have to send it, and instead will only give Brooklyn a second-round pick … in six years.
This characterization seems unfair to Durant.
Was he pettily trying to stick it to Golden State? Perhaps. I can’t rule that out.
But I wouldn’t assume his motivations.
This could easily be spun into Durant helping his team, which at that point was the Nets. The only way Brooklyn getting an extra draft pick helps Durant is helping his team build a winner. At that point, he no owed the Warriors no favors in building their team.
The Warriors badly enough wanted Russell – the youngest All-Star ever to change teams through fee agency – that they agreed to the trade (and to send Andre Iguodala plus a first-round pick to the Grizzlies and to get hard-capped).
Acquiring Durant in a sign-and-trade rather than signing him directly was also an important aspect of the Nets’ offseason. They dealt $30,479,200 of salary* to acquire Durant and his $38,199,000 max salary.
Cap room goes only as far as its actual amount. Teams can acquire 125% of outgoing salary plus $100,000 in a trade.
That extra spending power was key to signing DeAndre Jordan.
But a sign-and-trade worked well for both Durant and Brooklyn.
Whether Durant was acting on his own or as a conduit for the Nets, the extra pick makes the arrangement even better for Brooklyn.