It came as no surprise in free agency when the Los Angeles Clippers, L.A. Lakers and Toronto Raptors were the three teams involved in the Kawhi Leonard Sweepstakes. Before the San Antonio Spurs traded the eventual 2019 NBA Finals MVP north of the border, it was reported that Leonard wanted to return home to Southern California.

Leonard confirmed those reports after the Clippers introduced both him and Paul George at a press conference Wednesday, acknowledging that the two Los Angeles teams were his preferred destinations in the 2018 offseason.  

“Everybody knew where I wanted to play last year during the trade, and it was the Lakers or Clippers and wanting to come back home,” Leonard told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes in an exclusive interview

The Lakers appeared to be the frontrunners to land Leonard in the first week of July, despite Leonard’s success with the Raptors and the Clippers’ year-long recruitment of the superstar. According to Haynes, Leonard likely would have joined LeBron James and Anthony Davis in purple and gold had L.A.’s second franchise not traded for George.

Kawhi Leonard Paul George Clippers Kawhi Leonard speaks during his introductory news conference with Paul George at Green Meadows Recreation Center on July 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“Once we were able to get [Paul] to be a part of this with me, I already knew he wanted to play at home, too. I felt like it was a great opportunity,” Leonard told Yahoo Sports. “I trusted the front office for the most part when I went through the process. They did everything right, just letting me play ball and not trying to call anyone’s cell phone. They took the right steps of doing it the legal way and waited until they were able to talk to me, and I liked that about them.”

It’s unclear whether or not the Lakers ever had a real chance to acquire Leonard in the 2018 offseason when he asked to be dealt from San Antonio. Reports have indicated that the Spurs didn’t want to send their best player to their rival, no matter what the Lakers might have offered.

A year before the Lakers considered trading for Leonard, George was available via trade. Sending either Brandon Ingram or the No.2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft—eventually used to select Lonzo Ball—to the Indiana Pacers reportedly would’ve put George in a Lakers’ uniform. Los Angeles watched the Oklahoma City Thunder trade for George, believing they could sign him in free agency a year later without giving up any assets.

George signed a long-term deal with the Thunder after spending one season with the team, deciding not to even meet with the Lakers. The All-Star, of course, forced Oklahoma City to send him to the Clippers a year later.

The Lakers likely wouldn’t have acquired Anthony Davis if they had made a trade for Leonard last year. Los Angeles sent a bevy of draft picks, along with Ball, Ingram and Josh Hart, to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for the NBA’s best big man.

With James and Davis on the Lakers and Leonard and George teaming up on the Clippers, Los Angeles is home to the top NBA title favorites.