Paul George 'never wanted to leave LA,' calls 1st Clippers offer 'disrespectful'

A week after agreeing to join the Philadelphia 76ers, Paul George has opened up on his breakup with his hometown Los Angeles Clippers and the breakdown in contract negotiations that preceded his exit.

George detailed his side of his talks with the Clippers on his podcast, "Podcast P with Paul George" that was published Monday.

In it, he said that he never wanted to leave Los Angeles, but that a "disrespectful" Clippers offer in October set the tone for negotiations.

"Just to put it out there, like, I never wanted to leave LA," George said (29:00, below). "Initially 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, to be here and be committed to LA.

"As it played out though, like the first initial deal was, I thought, kind of disrespectful. Again, in all of this, no hard feelings, no love lost. It's a business.

"So the first initial deal was like two years, 60 [million]. So I'm like, whoa, whoa, whoa. ... So I'm like, nah. I'm not signing that."

George then said that the Clippers went on to pitch him on continuing to build around him and Kawhi Leonard long-term. Per George, the Clippers went up "inches, inches, inches" after their initial offer in October until they got to an offer of "44, 45" million annually.

Then, in January, Leonard signed a fully guaranteed three-year, $150 million extension. George said that he would have agreed to the same deal during the season.

"Then I hear wind of what they're going to give Kawhi," George continued. "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 s*** together. I'll take what Kawhi got.' No problem. I was cool with that.

"And we were still taking less [than max contract value]. Kawhi took less. I was like if Kawhi's gonna take less, I’m not gonna say I want more that Kawhi. It's not about me being paid more than him. I'm gonna take what he got. Y'all give him that, give me that. They didn't want to do that."

Paul George is now a Philadelphia 76er following a breakdown in contract talks with the Los Angeles Clippers. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Paul George is now a Philadelphia 76er following a breakdown in contract talks with the Los Angeles Clippers. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

George said he then cut off in-season negotiations at the All-Star break with plans to pick up talks again after the season. He said that after the season ended, the Clippers offered him around "three years, 150 [million]," similar to Leonard's deal. He said that he countered with an offer to accept that deal if it came with a no-trade clause.

He said the Clippers declined to include a no-trade clause, and that he countered again with a max contract of four years and $212 million without a no-trade clause. He said the Clippers rejected that offer and that talks eventually reached "a stalemate."

"I love [owner] Steve [Ballmer], I love [president of basketball operations] Lawrence [Frank]," George continued. "But at that point, it didn't even feel right to come back with that type of energy and be comfortable playing back in LA."

George ultimately agreed to a four-year, $212 million max contract with the 76ers. Hours before that deal was reported, the Clippers offered their side of the breakdown in talks in a statement announcing that George would not return.

“We negotiated for months with Paul and his representatives on a contract that would make sense for both sides, and we were left far apart," the statement reads. "The gap was significant. We understand and respect Paul’s decision to look elsewhere for his next contract.”

George's move to the Philadelphia is the most significant transaction of NBA free agency. He joins a 76ers core alongside former MVP Joel Embiid and All-Star Tyrese Maxey that projects to contend for an NBA championship.

With his exit, an era ends in Los Angeles five years after the Clippers acquired George and Leonard in hopes of competing for a title. The Clippers advanced to the Western Conference finals just once in those five seasons and don't project to compete for a championship now that George is gone.