The Los Angeles Clippers were known to frequently send members of their staff to watch Kawhi Leonard play during his season with the Toronto Raptors.
Steve Ballmer, Lawrence Frank and other team representatives occasionally made appearances at Scotiabank Arena as well.
“I got a lot of credit, and so did Jerry West, but the guy that was the hero in all this was Lawrence Frank,” Doc Rivers said. “He did all the work. He had Steve Ballmer going to Raptors games and he went to some, too. We were warned that no more Clippers players, coaches or employees could go to games in Toronto. We were sending guys to go sit in the stands.
“There was nothing wrong with what we were doing, but Steve Ballmer sitting courtside in Toronto seemed a little strange. But we didn’t say a word. We just wanted [Leonard] to know we were there and we were interested.”
The Clippers had been optimistic of their odds of signing Leonard, but the Los Angeles Lakers' ability to pair him with LeBron James and Anthony Davis was an obstacle.
“We had a meeting with Kawhi at my house in Malibu and we felt we had the inside position,” Rivers said. “The Lakers had a meeting with Kawhi and they built this whole thing up for him to come to their new practice facility and he said, ‘No, you can come to my hotel room.’ But with us he said, ‘Yes, I’ll come to your house.’ When we heard that it felt like he was telling us he wants to come here.”
Rivers had never spoken with Leonard before the Clippers' meeting.
“I actually tried to speak to him last season a couple times as he was walking by and you get nothing out of him. Nothing,” Rivers said. “He comes into this meeting and he shakes our hands and he’s talking. We were prepared for a meeting where we would have to drag things out of him. Instead, he’s the one talking and finally he tells us exactly what the deal is.
“He said, ‘I want to play for you,’ and he pointed at me. He said, ‘Mr. Ballmer, I love the things you do and what you stand for, but your team is not good enough and if you don’t change your team, I’m not coming.’ ”