LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Kawhi Leonard and Paul George made their debuts Wednesday as Los Angeles Clippers teammates, vowing to turn their hometown club into an NBA champion and eclipse city rival Lakers.
“We’re not looking at the Battle of LA. We’ve got bigger goals in mind,” George said. “We’re not thinking about the Lakers shadow. We want to be holding that trophy and we’ll build up Clipper Nation along the way.”
Leonard made the biggest free agent signing in the NBA this month by leaving the Toronto Raptors after leading them to the NBA title while George was obtained in a blockbuster trade deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder at Leonard’s request.
“I’m on my next journey,” Leonard said. “These guys have got a great future. Paul is a player I always wanted to play with.
Both LA guys. Played down the street from each other. Now we’re on the Clippers.”
“We’ve got something special. I think we can make history.”
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer’s high-octane introduction video became a quick social media sensation, the 63-year-old former Microsoft chief executive screaming and yelling his joy and excitement about his club suddenly becoming a prime NBA contender for the first time.
“I’m just fired up to be here today,” Ballmer yelled. “It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty damn cool.”
In a much more low-key manner, George and Leonard also showed their excitement about what the future has in store for them and the Clippers as they accepted blue Clippers jerseys, George number 13 and Leonard number 2.
“I’m extremely happy and extremely excited to be back home,” George said after thanking the Thunder for making the trade deal. “Ultimately they helped me find my way back to LA. I’m pretty appreciative of that.”
Clippers outshine Lakers lately
The Clippers are second favorites among Caesar’s Palace sportsbook NBA championship oddsmakers at 7-2, trailing only the 3-1 odds for the Los Angeles Lakers, who boast LeBron James and Anthony Davis plus a host of solid support talent after being unable to add Leonard to their own lineup.