PG wanted L.A. but felt offer was 'disrespectful'

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Paul George said he never wanted to leave Los Angeles but that negotiations on an extension with the Clippers started with a surprisingly “disrespectful” first offer.

George signed a four-year, $212-million max free agent deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. But the All-Star guard said on “Podcast P with Paul George” that he was willing to stay with the Clippers for the three-year, $150-million extension they gave Kawhi Leonard but with a no-trade clause attached. George said the Clippers wouldn’t do that or give him a four-year, $212-million contract if they wouldn’t attach a no-trade clause.

“I never wanted to leave L.A.,” George said on his podcast. “L.A. is home, this is where I wanted to finish at, and I wanted to work as hard as possible to win one in L.A. That was the goal, to be here and be committed to L.A. As it played out though, the first initial deal was I thought kind of disrespectful. In all of this, no hard feelings, no love lost … it’s a business. So the first initial deal was like two years, 60. So I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa.

“That’s crazy! I’m like, ‘Naw, I’m not signing that.'”

Before George agreed to terms with the Sixers at the start of free agency, the Clippers said in a statement that “the gap was significant” in talks to keep the guard in Los Angeles and that the organization had to be mindful of the new collective bargaining agreement, which made roster-building incredibly restrictive for tax-paying teams.

“Heading into this offseason, our roster was constructed [with] three great players 33 and over, two of whom could become free agents,” the Clippers said of Leonard, George and James Harden, who agreed to a two-year, $70 million free agent deal to stay with the team.

“We wanted to retain them on contracts that would allow us, under the constraints of the new CBA, to continue building the team. We negotiated for months with Paul and his representative on a contract that would make sense for both sides, and we were left far apart. The gap was significant.”

George detailed that initial offer from the Clippers came in October. The Clippers, who could have signed George and Leonard to an extension up to four years and $221 million, would strike a three-year, $150-million extension with Leonard in early January. Leonard explained he took less than the max in part due to the hope of keeping George and Harden as well.

At that point, George was still optimistic that he could get the same extension with the Clippers. But he said the team would only “go up inches, inches, inches to where it was like 44-45 million per year after the initial offer.

“Then I hear wind of what they’re going to give Kawhi so I’m like, ‘Just give me what Kawhi got,'” George said. “‘Y’all view us the same. We came here together, we want to finish this s— together.’ I’ll take what Kawhi got, no problem, I was cool with that and we were still taking less. Kawhi took less, so if Kawhi takes less, it’s not about me being paid more than him.

“Y’all give him that, give me that. They didn’t want to do that.”

George said that was before the All-Star break and he decided to table talks because he didn’t want it to affect his mood. When he was asked by reporters where his contract talks stood during the season, George’s answers became short to the point where he declined to talk about the matter prior to the start of the playoffs.

George, 34, played 74 regular-season games — his most since he was traded to the Clippers before the 2019-20 season. The nine-time All-Star averaged 22.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He shot career highs of 47.1% from the field, 41.3% from 3-point range and 90.7% from the free throw line.

George said after the season, the Clippers were willing to offer him what they gave Leonard. But George wanted a no-trade clause as well. When the team declined, George said he asked for a four-year, $212 million deal so that in the case that he was traded later by the Clippers, he would have the contract he wanted.

George said he spoke to Leonard before leaving for Philadelphia and that Leonard was supportive.

“I owed Kawhi that conversation,” George said. “He understood like, ‘Go get your bag.’ 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 weighed a lot on me, just, damn, I’m leaving my boy. We talked and he gave me his blessings of like, ‘Man, just go do what’s best for you.'”

After the two decided to team up in the summer of 2019 and become Clippers, the pair have split up with just one Western Conference finals appearance to show in five seasons together, as injuries marred the Leonard-George Clippers era.

“We couldn’t remain healthy as a unit,” George said. “But I thought I did enough to earn that [three-year, $150-million deal with a no-trade clause]. They didn’t want to do it. So it was just a stalemate. Ultimately it was like, all right, that ship has sailed. … I love Steve [Ballmer], I love Lawrence [Frank], but at that point it didn’t even feel right to come back with that type of energy and be comfortable playing back in L.A.”

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