In July of 2018 the Oklahoma City Thunder locked up Paul George on a four-year, $137 million, contract extension. In April of 2019 the Thunder had been launched from the first round of the NBA Playoffs for the third-consecutive year.
According to Doc Rivers, OKC wasn’t willing to move forward with the star-studded roster of Paul George and Russell Westbrook any longer. That’s why, according to Rivers, the Clippers were willing to list George among the players L.A. was willing to go after in an effort to land free agent Kawhi Leonard.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rivers says they presented the list of players to Leonard and he was drawn to the idea of playing with Paul George.
“We shouldn’t have had a list, because then he got to choose who he wanted to play with,” Rivers said. “And the assumption was that we could get them. We didn’t know if we could get anybody. We just showed him guys that we thought would match him and when he saw Paul George’s name he said, ‘I want to play with him.”
Having George on the list was a bold move considering he was was just a year removed from signing the extension but, according to Rivers, the Clippers knew getting him wasn’t a sure bet, but it wasn’t as improbable as some might have thought.
“We showed him everybody else and he didn’t want to hear it. He just stayed on Paul George,” Rivers said about Leonard and the list of players. “So after the meeting we sat down and I said, ‘We got to get Paul George. I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we have to do it.’ We did know that Oklahoma City wanted to break their team up, so that helped. But we didn’t know if we could get him.”
If what Rivers is saying is true, this pokes a hole in the idea that it was George who went to the OKC front office to break up the team. Perhaps he merely requested a landing spot after he became aware that the front office wanted to shake up the roster.
OKC fans may not want to believe this version of the story, and it actually may not be true, but it would explain the smooth transition of George to L.A. and Westbrook to Houston with the two seemingly having their relationship remaining intact.
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