Paul George to Philly: 9-time NBA All-Star leaves hometown of LA for $212M deal: report

NBA free agency had a major shakeup overnight. Just hours after informing the Los Angeles Clippers he would not be returning, Paul George signed a four-year deal for a reported$212 million with the Philadelphia 76ers. 

With George joining the 2023 league MVP, Joel Embiid and the red-hot Tyrese Maxey, the Sixers become a true contender against the defending NBA champions, the Boston Celtics, and now, the 213 era is officially over as the Clippers begin a new chapter at the Intuit Dome next season. 

213, an LA area code, also represents the jersey numbers of Kawhi Leonard (No. 2) and Paul George (No. 13). The two both grew up in Southern California and joined the team during the 2019 off-season.

"Paul has informed us that he is signing his next contract with another team. Paul is a tremendous talent and an elite two-way player. We feel fortunate for the five years we spent with him," the Clippers said in a statement Sunday. 

Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers and Paul George #13. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The statement also said, "We will miss Paul. At the same time, we're excited by the opportunities we've now been afforded, including greater flexibility under the new CBA." 

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What was supposed to be a dynamic duo that was supposed to bring the Clippers their first championship has been a disaster. Despite some great regular-season moments, the two were plagued by injuries when it mattered most. Outside the 2020 postseason in the NBA Bubble, fans were robbed of seeing the two healthy at the same time in the playoffs. 

"We traded a lot to pair Paul and Kawhi, and in exchange, we had five seasons of contention. Even though we fell short of our ultimate objective, we appreciate the chances we had with Paul," the Clippers' statement said.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers are introduced at Green Meadows Recreation Center on July 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

On Saturday, George declined his $48.7 million player option to enter free agency. It was then reported he would have meetings with his current team, Orlando and Philadelphia. 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Paul George reaches decision about his future with the LA Clippers

The Paul George sweepstakes, if you will, has taken twists and turns over the past few weeks. The "Podcast P" host allegedly wanted to stay on the West Coast and eliminated Philly as a possible landing spot. Other outlets reported the Golden State fought to get George in anticipation that Klay Thompson would go elsewhere. 

Steph Curry and Draymond Green had allegedly approved the proposed trade. However, The Athletic's Tim Kawakami reported the Warriors offered a trade package they felt the Clippers would accept, which would include some type of combination of Andrew Wiggins, Chris Paul, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and a future first-round pick. The deal reportedly stalled when they were unwilling to add both Kuminga and Wiggins.

 Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

So, why did Paul George decide to leave his hometown and seek employment elsewhere? 

One of the earliest signs of trouble was in the days ahead of and during the 2024 playoffs when the 34-year-old grew increasingly irritated when asked about contract negotiations and declined to answer. 

George was set on signing a four-year contract and that was not something the Clippers were willing to give him, multiple outlets reported. 

"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. We understand and respect Paul's decision to look elsewhere for his next contract. We explored an opt-in and trade scenario, but it would have left us in a similar position under the new CBA, with very little asset value to justify the restrictions," the Clippers clarified in their statement released Sunday.

In January, Leonard signed a three-year contract worth a reported $153 million with the team and at the time, George seemed confident he could reach the deal he desired with the franchise. 

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Not so fast.

While Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is one of the richest owners in sports and could write the check, the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that went into effect last year has forced teams to get creative about player salaries. 

The Clippers fall under the league’s luxury tax apron and therefore, face harsh roster restrictions and penalties. In a social media post, sports contributor Keith Smith explained that teams that fall under the second apron can only:

  • Re-sign their own free agents.
  • Sign draft picks.
  • Sign players to minimum contracts.
  • Make trades where one player's salary is sent out and an equal or lower salary comes back.

On Sunday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the NBA informed teams the new salary cap was at $140,588,000. During the 2023-24 season, the Clippers’ player roster totaled $136,021,000. 

"We want Paul, we value Paul. Paul's done some tremendous things here, he’s an elite player. And our biggest thing is we always want to be able to treat players well and pay them fairly," Clippers president of basketball operations, Lawrence Frank, said previously. 

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LA Clippers forward Paul George. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

George also previously played for Indiana and Oklahoma City.

Now, the Clippers will be tasked with building complementary pieces around Kawhi Leonard as they move into the Intuit Dome