July 19, 2024

Paul George dishes on ‘disrespectful’ year of Clippers negotiations, allure to 76ers


New Philadelphia 76ers star Paul George said a “disrespectful” initial contract offer and the lack of a no-trade clause were among the reasons he left his hometown LA Clippers after five seasons.

George, who signed a four-year, $212 million contract to join the 76ers last week, said the Clippers initially offered him two years and $60 million last fall during in-season negotiations that he eventually tabled in February.

“I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” George said on his podcast, “Podcast P.” “Two years, 60? That’s crazy! I’m not signing that.”

 

When negotiations resumed after the season, George wanted a no-trade clause to go with a three-year, $150 million offer from the Clippers. But he said LA didn’t want to include a no-trade clause or a fourth season on the deal, leading to his decision to team up with NBA MVP center Joel Embiid and 2024 Most Improved Player recipient Tyrese Maxey in Philadelphia.

The NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, which introduced the heavily punitive second apron, played a large role in the Clippers offers, the team said in a statement. LA signed Leonard to a three-year, $153 million contract extension in January, and re-signed James Harden — who they acquired in a November trade with the 76ers — to a two-year, $70 million deal at the start of free agency last week.

George said he was interested in a similar deal to Leonard’s, but says the Clippers offered less to George before he tabled negotiations in February until the offseason.

“‘We came here together, we want to finish this s— together. I’ll take what Kawhi got, I was cool with that and we were still taking less. Kawhi took less, so if Kawhi takes less, I’m not going,” he said.

“It’s not about me being paid more than him. I’m going to take what he got.’ They didn’t want to do that … Let me get to the end of this year and we’ll discuss this again.”

The only players in the NBA with no trade clauses currently are Bradley Beal (who used his to drive a trade from the Washington Wizards to the Phoenix Suns last offseason) and LeBron James (who re-signed with the Los Angeles Lakers last week). George says that the Clippers declined to include a no-trade clause, which led George to request a fourth year on a contract that would have been available from other teams; the Clippers could have paid George up to $221 million on a four-year contract.

“They didn’t want to do no trade,” George said. “I’m like, all right, well then it only makes sense for me to do four years, $212. At least pay me my money. If y’all going to trade me, y’all going to trade me. But at least now I’m not in a situation where I could have got more, had I just gone to free agency, then just take this deal where y’all could ship me. … They didn’t want to do that, so now I was like, I’m open to entertaining what’s out there.”

George said that even though he “loves” Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer and president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, he felt like the negotiations left him uncomfortable returning to the Clippers.

“Just to put it out there, I never wanted to leave LA initially,” George said. “I was not trying to leave LA. LA is home. This is where I wanted to finish at. I wanted to work as hard as possible to win one in LA, that was the goal … the first initial deal was, I thought, kind of disrespectful.”

George said that he contacted Leonard about leaving the Clippers. When Leonard re-signed in January, it was with the intention of George and Harden being able to re-sign as well this offseason. The Clippers won only three playoff series with George and Leonard, and none after Leonard tore his ACL in the 2021 conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz.

Leonard, who is close with George, gave George his blessing upon leaving the Clippers.

“We had that conversation and I was like, man, I got to do what’s best,” George said of his discussion with Leonard. “He understood like ‘Go get your bag P, go get your bag. I can’t even be mad at you.’ I look at Kawhi as one of my best friends in this league. Somebody that I f— with. Our families love each other.

“So it was tough to leave him just with how much I enjoyed being out there with him. That was a big decision too, that weighed a lot on me, was just, ‘D—, I’m leaving my boy, leaving (Kawhi).’ But I had to have that conversation with him, we talked.”

The 76ers brought a contingent to George’s home in Southern California the night after free agency started that included president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, coach Nick Nurse, general manager and former Clipper Elton Brand and Hall of Famer Julius Erving. George felt like the 76ers left no doubt about George joining the organization.

“Not to say that Clippers didn’t and the Clippers don’t, but just an organization that just was like, ‘Man, you’re our guy,’” George said. “We believe in you, we want you here, there’s no more perfect pairing with you, Joel, Tyrese together. My family felt it, I felt it, it just felt like, all right, this is where I’m going to spend the next chapter of my life. … They sold the city, sold the team, the organization, the fit, and it was just like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Despite George being happy about going to the 76ers, where he will wear number 8 as a tribute to late Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, George confirmed that he was interested in a possible opt in and trade to the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers acknowledged in a statement following the parting of ways with George that they “explored an opt-in and trade scenario, but it would have left us in a similar position under the new CBA, with very little asset value to justify the restrictions.”

George opting out of his deal canceled Golden State’s chances of landing George, but George was interested in potentially joining four-time champions Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

“That was a real thing that was close to being done,” George said of a possible trade to Golden State. “It was very intriguing and it was still an opportunity to stay close to home, stay on the West Coast, and it was a win-win. I think Steph is a unicorn, one of one player, and Joel’s a unicorn… So it was kind of like a good situation to be in the middle of, but ultimately the deal didn’t go through. I think the Clippers didn’t want a certain trade deal that the Warriors were willing to give … but it was close. It’d been dope, man.”

George also revealed that in 2019, Leonard contacted George about leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to go to the Toronto Raptors, where Leonard had just won Finals MVP. Leonard pushed to have George go to the Clippers instead, with the Clippers trading Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and control of seven first-round picks. It was a package that the Raptors could not match.

“I was close to going to Toronto, like we were deciding to go to Toronto or the Clippers,” George said. “Ultimately, the Clippers put something better. You know, a better package together, a better trade package together, that sent me to LA. But I was close. He was going to re-sign to Toronto, and we were going to go to Toronto.”

Now, George leaves the Clippers behind and prepares for a new career in Philadelphia, marking the only time George has changed teams via free agency in the offseason; he was drafted by Indiana in 2010 and traded to Oklahoma City and LA. George did express that it was a difficult decision to leave the Clippers, especially before the team debuts Intuit Dome for the 2024-25 season.

“It’s bittersweet,” George said of leaving the Clippers. “I don’t know what reception I will get coming back, but I do want to say I appreciate playing in front of the home crowd and embracing playing for the city.”

Required reading

(Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)





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