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Kawhi Leonard was not surprised that Paul George left the Clippers

Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

LAS VEGAS — Kawhi Leonard sat in chair and peered down at reporters after Team USA 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 Philadelphia 76ers.

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

On his "Podcast P with Paul George," George said it was important to keep Leonard informed of his contract status.

Leonard initially declined to talk about George during his interview session Sunday but later clarified he didn't have a problem with George's decision.

Two days later, Leonard had a little more to say about George 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 of players who 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's time together was hampered by injuries, stopping any chance 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?" Leonard said, repeating the question. "The same like it was last year. It don't change."

 

Last season, it resulted in the Clippers posting a 51-31 record and finishing the regular season as the fourth seed.

It also resulted in losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Dallas Mavericks.

Leonard played in 68 regular-season games, the most since he played in 74 for the Spurs during the 2016-17 season, but he sat out the last eight regular-season games and four of the six playoff games against Dallas because of inflammation in his right knee.

Leonard hasn't played in an NBA game since April 26, but he expects to play when Team USA faces Canada in an exhibition game Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.

"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, coach of the U.S. team and the Golden State Warriors, 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 July 28 against Serbia.

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?"


©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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