Nearly three weeks after they agreed to play together with the Los Angeles Clippers, NBA All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George made their first public appearance Wednesday in a Los Angeles community center gym.
“I think we’ve got something special,” said Leonard, the two-time NBA Finals MVP coming off a championship season in Toronto. “We can make history here. We’ve got the right team to do it.”
In explaining their decision to team up with the Clippers, Leonard and George both mentioned the importance of playing near their friends and family. Both were eager to join a team they grew up watching intently from their hometowns in the Los Angeles suburbs during the Clippers’ leaner years.
But Leonard and George seemed to be most impressed by this steady, cerebral franchise’s supporting cast and leadership —everyone from complementary players Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams to front-office architect Jerry West and coach Doc Rivers.
West and team owner Steve Ballmer structured the franchise specifically to attract elite talent this summer, and Leonard sees the Clippers as fertile ground to grow another champion quickly.
“It’s an opportunity for us to just build our own, you know what I mean?” Leonard said. “To make history. They haven’t been to a Finals. They haven’t won a Finals. That was something big and exciting for me.”
While Leonard joined the Clippers as a free agent, George got to Los Angeles through a trade with Oklahoma City. The All-NBA first-teamer described his departure from the Thunder as “a mutual thing between the both of us that the time was up” in Oklahoma City.
“I want to be a part of something special,” George said. “I want to help build something special, and this is surreal to be home and do it for a team that I grew up with, and wanted to be a part of ever since they missed out on me in the draft. But that’s another story. That wasn’t on Steve’s time, so it’s cool.”
Briefly: Denver signed point guard Jamal Murray, 22, to the five-year, $170 million extension that the sides agreed to last month. Murray averaged 18.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game last season. … Center Pau Gasol, 39, has agreed to a one-year deal with Portland for the veteran’s minimum of $2.6 million, ESPN reported. Gasol, a six-time all-star, averaged 3.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game for San Antonio and Milwaukee last season.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Kawhi-Leonard-Paul-George-welcomed-to-Los-Angeles-14126915.php.