Report: Kawhi Leonard Recruited Kyrie Irving Before Paul George Clippers Trade

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2019

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 16:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics look on during the first half at TD Garden on November 16, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Apparently Kawhi Leonard recruited just about every star on the market this summer. 

According to ESPN's Zach Lowe, Leonard reportedly hit up Kyrie Irving to join forces during free agency, though Irving ultimately teamed up with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn instead:

"In one backroom power move, Kawhi Leonard rescued Paul George from a capped-out low-level playoff team; rejected the Lakers' attempts to build perhaps the greatest big three in basketball history; and left the league as open as it has been in years. The league's quietest superstar 'found his voice,' as one executive put it. He recruited George, Durant and even Kyrie Irving at points, sources say."

Leonard also surprised Durant with a recruiting pitch, according to Romana Shelburne of ESPN:

"Durant got a call from Kawhi Leonard, asking if he'd consider teaming up with him and signing with the LA Clippers. They'd be great complements to each other, Leonard told Durant. He'd always admired him and had tremendous respect for him as a competitor.

"Durant was flattered and more than a little stunned, according to sources close to the situation. He didn't know Leonard that well, so getting a recruiting call like that made a real impression."

With Irving and Durant out, Leonard turned to George, at the time still a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Leonard's recruitment "flattered" and "caught George by surprise."

"For a quiet guy, he's a hell of a recruiter," a source close to George told Shelburne. 

Leonard is already a two-time champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and a three-time All-Star. Now, we can add "expert recruiter" to his resume.

In convincing George to push for a trade out of Oklahoma City—and in convincing the Clippers that landing both Leonard and George was worth giving up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, four future unprotected first-round picks, one future protected first-rounder and two pick swaps—Leonard altered the balance of the NBA. 

There will be no three-superstar dynasty for the Los Angeles Lakers, at least not for now. There is genuine parity around the NBA, with a whole slew of teams—the Clippers, Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and perhaps even the Golden State Warriors (once Klay Thompson returns from a torn ACL)—capable of making a case they could win a title next year.

And that doesn't even count the Nets, who will be right back in the running as soon as Kevin Durant returns from a ruptured Achilles, likely in the 2020-21 season.

With one Thanos-meme snap of his fingers—and a few phone calls and meetings with other superstars—Leonard changed the NBA.

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