WATCH: Lakers Fans Boo Kawhi Leonard, Paul George At Clippers Home Game On Opening Night Of 2019-20 NBA Season
Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Clippers, Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When Los Angeles Lakers governor Jeanie Buss implemented sweeping changes in the front office by firing her brother, Jim, and longtime general manager, Mitch Kupchak, it was with the intention of restoring the franchise back to its previous heights.

That responsibility ultimately fell to Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, who crafted a plan to clear salary cap space for 2018 NBA Free Agency. That of course aligned with LeBron James reaching the open market, and the Lakers’ strategy paid off.

With James in the fold and still a wealth of cap space, the Lakers maintained flexibility to pursue trade scenarios that would possibly surface and/or free agency in 2019. After trading for Anthony Davis this past summer they hoped to convince Kawhi Leonard to form a vaunted big three.

While it’s believed Leonard had some level of interest in scenario, he ultimately signed with the L.A. Clippers, who simultaneously orchestrated a trade for Paul George.

With the basketball landscape in Southern California dramatically altered, the two L.A. teams were scheduled to face one another on Opening Night of the 2019-20 NBA season. The Clippers were the designated home team at Staples Center, though Leonard being introduced in the starting lineup was still met with boos, and George received the same treatment.

The reaction wasn’t much of a surprise, considering Lakers fans have regularly packed Staples Center for Clippers home games and other arenas of opposing teams. The response also falls in line with treatment stars have received when spurning the historic franchise.

George once was cheered as though he played for the Lakers, but adoration changed to vitriol when he signed a max contract to remain with the Oklahoma City Thunder. George presumably will receive the same treatment as Leonard once he debuts this season.

While the Clippers and Lakers are now led by respective All-Star duos, players consistently downplayed any significance or rivalry between the two teams. James specifically did so as it pertained to going head-to-head with Leonard.

“I love playing against the best in our league,” James said Tuesday. “And Kawhi is one of the best that we have in our league. But I also never let that get in the bigger scheme. This is Lakers versus the opponent.

“Yes, I love the individual matchups that we have throughout the course of a game; whether it’s me versus Kawhi, me with KD, me with Kobe in the past, me with D-Wade when we were not teammates, so on and so on. But I also never lose track of what the main thing is.

“That’s the Lakers, Cavs or Heat versus the opponent.”

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