Kawhi Leonard was not surprised that Paul George left the Clippers


Kawhi Leonard sat in chair and peered down at the media after Team USA basketball practice Tuesday, looking uninterested but at least willing to talk about Paul George leaving the Clippers, saying it was “no surprise” that his running mate for five years in Los Angeles took a four-year, $212-million deal from the 76ers.

Leonard said he and George had conversations all season about their contract extensions. Leonard agreed to a three-year, $152-million deal in January, a deal that was offered to and eventually turned down by George.

On his “Podcast P with Paul George” the nine-time All-Star forward said it was important to keep Leonard abreast of his contract status.

Leonard initially declined to talk about George during his interview session on Sunday, but clarified that he didn’t have a problem with George’s decision to head to Philadelphia.

Two days later, Leonard had a little more to say about George’s situation and how he wasn’t surprised by the move.

“No, I mean, we knew what it was before the season,” Leonard said. “So, we knew what it was going to come down to. So, we talked the whole way through. No surprise.”

The two came together in 2019 and were hailed as the pair that had the two-way talent to lead the Clippers to their first NBA championship.

It never happened.

The Clippers reached the Western Conference finals in 2021.

But the story of Leonard and George being together was littered with injuries stopping the Clippers from having any chances of reaching the mountaintop.

Now, with George gone, Leonard was asked how much of the burden will be on him to lead the Clippers in the uber-tough West.

“How much will be on me to lead the team?’” said Leonard, repeating the question. “The same like it was last year. It don’t change.”

Last season that burden meant the Clippers posting a 51-31 record to finish as the fourth seed. It also meant losing in the first round to the Dallas Mavericks. It meant Leonard playing in 68 regular-season games, the most since he played in 74 for the San Antonio Spurs during the 2016-17 season, but it also meant him missing the final eight regular-season games and four of the six playoff games against Dallas with inflammation in his right knee.

Leonard hasn’t played in an NBA game since April 26, but he expects to play when Team USA meets Canada in an exhibition game Wednesday night.

“Yeah, I think I will suit up tomorrow,” Leonard said. “Everything has been good so far. It’s been at a neutral state and hopefully it stays that way.”

Steve Kerr, the coach of Team USA and the Golden State Warriors coach, has kept a close eye on Leonard’s health.

Team USA will play four more exhibition games after Wednesday and then open the Paris Olympics on July 28 against Serbia in a group game.

Even with more time to go, Kerr was asked how Leonard has looked physically after four days of practice.

“Under the circumstances of just coming back, he looks pretty good,” Kerr said. “He’s been up and down. I thought the first day he was moving well early, not so much later and it makes perfect sense because he’s coming off that injury.

“The tricky part here is that you have an accelerated timeline for preparation. So, that’s what we have to determine and he has to help us determine. Can with this accelerated timeline — can he be at his best a couple of weeks from now when this thing starts?”



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