New Clippers superstar forward Kawhi Leonard wanted to make sure that there was another top-tier player with him in Los Angeles, and in that vein, he did some serious recruiting. Although Leonard was ultimately able to convince Paul George to join him on the Clippers by requesting a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Leonard reportedly first reached out to another one of the league's best forward.
According to a report from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Leonard recruited All-Star forward Kevin Durant pretty heavily in the weeks leading up to free agency. Although Durant ultimately turned down Leonard's request and instead signed a four-year max deal with the Brooklyn Nets, he was flattered by the recruitment.
Kevin Durant was getting ready to commit to the Brooklyn Nets, along with his good friends Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. They'd all grown close in 2016 with the United States Olympic Team and had talked often about playing with one another someday. All that remained was for free agency to officially open on the evening of June 30.
Then 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.
And while Durant followed through on his plan to play with Irving and Jordan in Brooklyn a few days later, the seeds of Friday's blockbuster night had been sown -- which saw the Clippers secure a commitment from Leonard and trade for Oklahoma City forward Paul George.
Leonard's ambition in trying to recruit Durant to the Clippers suggested he was serious about joining LA in free agency. But it also suggested that they needed to get him another star.
Leonard is widely perceived as a quite, reserved guy, so to hear that he was so heavily involved in recruiting behind the scenes is interesting. After having to do a ton of heavy lifting to lead the Toronto Raptors to their first title in franchise, it's clear that he wanted to have some serious help at his next stop, and he got his wish.
While Leonard and Durant (when he returns to action from the Achilles injury he suffered in the NBA Finals) would have been a deadly duo, Leonard and Paul George is also an extremely potent pairing.