NBA Free Agency: Paul George Felt Insulted by Clippers in Contract Negotiations

Well-traveled nine-time All-Star combo forward Paul George is headed to his fourth NBA franchise ahead of his 15th pro season. The 6-foot-8 future Hall of Famer signed a four-year, $212 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers as a free agent this summer. The new agreement includes a 15 percent trade kicker.

He’ll join a pair of All-Stars in perennial MVP contender Joel Embiid and rising young point guard Tyrese Maxey, as theoretically one of the biggest threats to unseat the reigning champion Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

During a new appearance on his show “Podcast P with Paul George,” the six-time All-NBA Teamer and four-time All-Defensive Teamer revealed that his prior club, the L.A. Clippers, apparently attempted to strong-arm him during contract negotiations throughout the 2023-24 NBA season and into free agency.

“Just to put it out there, I never wanted to leave L.A.,” George claimed. “L.A. is home, this is where I wanted to finish at. 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.”

The Palmdale native linked up with his hometown team during the 2019 offseason, to join fellow All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, who inked a free agent contract with the Clippers on the condition that George would force a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to join him.

Paul George Michael Wilbon Bob Myers
ESPN commentators Michael Wilbon, Paul George, and Bob Myers report before Game Three of the 2024 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on June 12, 2024 in…

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“As it played out though, the first initial deal was, I thought, kind of disrespectful,” George revealed. “So the first initial deal was like two years, $60 [million]… That’s crazy. So I’m like, ‘No, I’m not signing that.’ This was maybe October-iso [when] negotiations first started.”

“And as it kept going, they would go up inches, inches, inches, to where it was like $44-45 [million], but this was like a couple months in-between, before we got it to 40-something. I’m still like, ‘Nah, I’m not doing that.’ Then I hear wind of what they’re gonna give Kawhi. So I’m like, ‘Just give me what Kawhi got. Y’all view us the same. We came here together, we want to finish this… together. I’ll take what Kawhi got… They didn’t want to do that.”

Leonard inked a three-year, $152.4 million contract extension with the Clippers in January, which will keep him under team control through the 2026-27 season. The deal is a little less than the maximum possible sum the 33-year-old could have netted for that timespan, which would have been anywhere from $160-170 million depending on the league’s salary cap.

“So this was before the All-Star break,” George said. “I’m like, ‘You know what, let’s not even have no more conversations, maybe let’s just play this year out.’ Because it was starting to get into my mood.”

The Clippers finished with a 51-31 record and the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. Leonard, as is his custom, couldn’t stay healthy in the playoffs, appearing in just two games during L.A.’s six-game first-round playoff loss to the No. 5-seeded Dallas Mavericks, who eventually made it all the way to the NBA Finals.

“Season ends, I’m healthy. 74 games played, and had one of my most efficient seasons. So now we’re going [into] negotiations, now they bring it to three years, $150 [million]… I presented three years, $150 [million], no-trade [clause],” Geroge said. “Then I’m taking less [than the maximum], but at least I know I’m here… So then now, I’m like, ‘All right, well then it only makes sense for me to do four years, $212 [million]. At least pay me my money. If y’all gonna trade me, y’all gonna trade me.”

George averaged 22.6 points on a .471/.413/.907 slash line, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists a night for L.A., across those 74 contests.

“So they didn’t want to do that… Now I’m open to entertaining what’s out there,” George said. “They weren’t going to budge, I wasn’t gonna budge.”

Instead, he signed a four-season, $211.6 million maximum deal with Philadelphia. If healthy, this deep Sixers squad could be perhaps the second-most talented roster in its conference. But with the injury-prone George and Embiid in tow, health is always a question mark.