Leonard could have signed a four-year, $187 million extension had he opted into the $36 million he was set to earn in the 2021-22 season. But he opted for free agency. As a free agent, Leonard chose a longer-term deal instead of potentially signing a two-year, $82 million deal with a player option in 2022-23 and becoming a free agent again in 2022, which would have made him eligible to sign a five-year, $235 million max contract with the Clippers, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
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The Clippers have now signed both Leonard and George to long-term contracts. George signed a four-year, $190-million extension last December. Both Clippers’ stars have player options in their contracts aligned for the 2024-25 season. That also happens to be the same season when the Clippers plan to move into their new arena in Inglewood, Calif.
The LA Clippers have re-signed free agent Kawhi Leonard, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank.
“Kawhi is a transcendent player and a relentless worker who improves himself every day,” said Frank. “We share many of the same goals, which include a long-term relationship. This agreement marks another important moment for our franchise and our fans, as we strive to create a championship-caliber organization, where players find the success and fulfillment they seek. We’re eager to continue building with Kawhi. For now, we will do whatever we can to support him in his recovery from injury. We look forward to seeing him back where he wants to be, on the court with his teammates.”
Kawhi Leonard signed a new four-year contract with the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, including a player option, solidifying the star’s future with the team, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Andrew Greif: Paul George notes his approval to a couple of today’s agreements. pic.twitter.com/9slg7VJQRO
Chris Haynes: Free agent star Kawhi Leonard has decided that he is re-signing with the Los Angeles Clippers and terms are being discussed, league sources tell @YahooSports.
Kawhi Leonard is expected to return to the Los Angeles Clippers; however, he has yet to make his decision on his future with the LA franchise. Robert Horry called out Leonard’s indecision on the matter, claiming that the LA native treats the Clippers unfairly. Leonard is usually taking his time, having the leverage to perhaps negotiate a better deal with the Clippers.
Beyond the fact that sources with knowledge of the Clippers situation are relaying a very high level of confidence, there have been a few read-the-tea-leaves type moments of late that seem to paint the same picture: Per sources, Leonard attended several recent workouts for their draft prospects (more than he had in the past) and has been in frequent communication with the team’s staff as free agency neared.
What’s more, a rival executive said Clippers front-office officials have been operating as if they expected to have Leonard in the fold. Even with the injury that will likely keep Leonard out for most, if not all, of next season, holding onto the top free agent in this 2021 class would be a major win for owner Steve Ballmer and his group as they look to extend this title-contending window.
“It looks like [Kawhi] is expected to re-sign with the Clippers, but sources informed me that he will listen to other teams.” @ChrisBHaynes on Kawhi Leonard’s free agency
Chris Haynes: Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is expected to decline his $36 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent, league sources tell @YahooSports.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Kawhi Leonard has declined his $36M player option for next season and becomes a free agent, per source. Now, the expectation is that Leonard will negotiate a new deal to stay with Clippers. @Chris Haynes first on declining option.
From everything I’ve been told, they are going to pursue Kawhi Leonard and then, once the door is slammed in their face, pivot to a hard pursuit of Lowry. I think he makes sense for them as a target because he couldn’t possibly fit better, and the worry about his age isn’t as strong for me because the Mavs plus Lowry are plausibly good enough to contend … especially in a West with no obvious front-runner.
The Dallas Mavericks’ post-draft focus, sources say, will be the pursuit of Kyle Lowry (along with Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia) and their bid to re-sign Tim Hardaway Jr. Dallas was initially expected to wait and see if Kawhi Leonard gave any indication that he was open to leaving the Clippers, but the Mavericks have moved off of those plans.
Adam Aaronson: Woj says he’s gotten no indication that Kawhi Leonard is interested in leaving the Clippers. Says the Clippers are acting with Kawhi being on the roster in mind. But… “There’s an expectation that he could miss next season.”
Marc Stein: Today’s @Spotify Greenroom discussion about Kawhi Leonard was based on what I reported last Friday via Substack: https://marcstein.substack.com/p/bucks-cp3-got-what-they-wanted There are teams that no longer make the blanket assumption that Kawhi will stay with the Clippers and plan to pursue him if they get the chance.
The most likely scenario, league sources say, remains Leonard opting out to re-sign with the Clippers — or, in Steve Ballmer’s worst nightmare, to shock the league by signing elsewhere. Leonard’s well-known affinity for Southern California has led various rival front offices to presume that he would have no interest in switching teams for the third time, but the notion that Leonard is unattainable seems to be waning a bit as the Aug. 2 start of free agency nears.
Dallas, just to name one expected suitor, will not be dissuaded from pursuing Leonard even if he’s forced to miss all of next season, league sources say. Leonard’s situation is frequently likened to Kevin Durant’s free agency in 2019 after Durant had sustained a torn Achilles tendon in the Finals. Brooklyn furnished Durant with a four-year, $164 million deal as part of a sign-and-trade with Golden State, with the Nets knowing they would have to play a whole season without him. Even at 30 and with a worrisome injury history, Leonard appears capable of generating similar interest.
One executive I spoke to following the announcement that Kawhi had surgery to repair the partially torn ACL said he thinks no matter what, Kawhi would opt out, especially given the fact that Kevin Durant got the max after he suffered a ruptured Achilles. That executive also noted that Kawhi’s going to hit the 10-year mark for his years of service, which plays a role in upping his max contract as well.
The Kawhi Leonard whispers will continue until he’s re-signed. It’s unclear how Leonard’s surgery to repair a partially torn right ACL will impact his free agency, but plenty of teams will remain interested in landing his services.
League insiders still discuss how the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler was purportedly ranked high on a list Leonard provided Clippers brass during his free agency in 2019 before Los Angeles landed Paul George. Those same voices also noted to Bleacher Report a string of messaging from Dallas in recent weeks about their interest in Leonard.
Marc Stein: No established timetable for Kawhi Leonard’s return, Clippers say. Leonard has a player option for next season to return to the Clippers … or he can opt for free agency.
We polled five executives around the league to get a barometer of what they think Kawhi is going to do, and they all felt he was ultimately going to stay with the Clippers.
Though the severity of Leonard’s right knee injury is not known publicly, he is in a rare class of NBA star who could still command top dollar if he isn’t fully healthy when free agency begins. But should he return — a possibility that league insiders continue to believe is the most likely option, while reiterating the difficulty of reading Leonard’s intentions — his injury could dictate the Clippers’ plans in other ways.
The Mavericks and Heat plan to make a hard push to acquire Leonard, league sources say. The Knicks will also pursue any superstar that becomes available, and a long list of other suitors would at least make an attempt if he hits the market. Who wouldn’t want a 30-year-old two-time Finals MVP still performing at an All-NBA level?
Dallas is considered by some executives to be the most serious threat to land Kawhi because of Luka Doncic’s presence and the front office’s ability to create maximum cap space or work out a sign-and-trade. During Leonard’s years with Nike, he also developed a good relationship with Nico Harrison, the Mavs’ new general manager and a former longtime executive at the company.
All five of the NBA executives polled believe Leonard will ultimately remain with the Clippers after his free agency concludes and look to run it back with George and compete for another shot at the championship. “I figure they have to make some changes and run it back with those two guys,” one NBA executive told HoopsHype. “You’ve got to give it another chance, I think. They just hired Ty Lue for this group. It wasn’t a normal season. You’ve got to give it a normal season a chance first, I’d think.”
All that said, signs still point to Leonard staying. In March, he reportedly purchased a $17.1 million home in Pacific Palisades, a coastal neighborhood of Los Angeles. While buying a mansion isn’t a guarantee that he’s planning to re-sign long-term, multiple league executive sources say Kawhi no longer travels via helicopter from his other home in San Diego, like he often did before Kobe Bryant’s passing in January 2020.
It’s worth noting that in 2019 Lillard was on Leonard’s list of stars he wanted to team up with, league sources say. But Lillard has four seasons remaining on his contract. Portland doesn’t need to trade him. If it came to the point where a trade was inevitable, Los Angeles wouldn’t have many goodies to add to a trade involving George, and if the Blazers would rather have younger players and picks, the Clippers would easily be outbid.
If Leonard wants to maximize his future earnings, he can re-sign with the Clippers on a two-year deal worth $81.8 million with a player option after the first season. He can then opt out and re-sign with the Clippers in the 2022 offseason on a five-year deal worth $235 million. This process would net him $274 million over the next six years through his age-36 season. Assuming he’s still playing at a high level, he can extend in the 2025 offseason to secure an additional $119.1 million over two years.
The only recent playoff teams that can get to maximum cap space for him are Dallas and New York. The Clippers would likely lose him without getting anything back if he were to walk to one of those teams.
The buzz around the league is consistent; expect a return to the Clippers. But Leonard is not exactly the most communicative superstar in the NBA.
Adrian Wojnarowski: I think Kawhi is staying with the Clippers. There’s been some mention of Miami… Could Miami be a sleeper for him? I think he’s where he wants to be geographically. I think he’s gotten along very well with the organization, with management, with ownership. I think Ty Lue has been really been good this year for them. The way it’s been described with me with Ty in LA is, “Ty can hit you without leaving a bruise.” And he can coach you hard, can hold guys accountable. And I think that’s an environment Kawhi likes, I think it’s been good for this team.
Yet barring a dramatic turn of events in these coming months, it’s looking like this Leonard free agency will be decidedly less dramatic. While this league has certainly taught us to expect the unexpected, the truth is that Leonard is still widely, well, expected to re-sign with the Clippers. As it stands, that’s the word from Clippers sources and rival executives alike.
As of today, there is no reason to think Leonard’s packing his bags. One non-Clippers executive placed the odds of Leonard leaving L.A. this summer at less than one percent. But the whole NBA is well aware Kawhi has the option to turn down his $36 million extension this summer to become a free agent. The team generously affords him the luxury of commuting from his home in San Diego even if he’s late to team activities. Most people think he’ll stay. But no one I talked to really knows what he’s thinking and this is the NBA. Superstar turnover is the norm.
A round of phone calls with front office executives clarifies this tremendously: Teams didn’t offer their best assets now because Bradley Beal and Kawhi Leonard could be available this summer, and if you empty the cupboard now you’ll never be in position to get them then.
Mark Medina on Kawhi Leonard: The Clippers, when I’ve asked them after the George extension how they’re feeling, they were optimistic. Look, they’re also not naive that NBA developments can always change. He’s used player movement to his advantage, but unlike the time in Toronto, he always had a hope to come back to his hometown.
Andrew Greif: Kawhi Leonard, referencing his own potential free agency, said he’s “just focused on this season.” Added that: “If I stay healthy, the best decision is to decline the player option but it doesn’t mean I’m staying or leaving.”
With George extending, there’s a belief Kawhi Leonard will also remain a Clipper long-term. Leonard has a $36 million player option for next season. If he opts out, he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021.
Of course, the receipt on George can be crumpled and thrown in the trash if it means that it guarantees that Kawhi Leonard will stay a Clipper, too. Kawhi isn’t eligible for an extension until next offseason, when he has the option to become a free agent. As we saw this season, a lot can happen in a year, but multiple front office sources said the timing and intent behind the extension is also a way of showing Kawhi that the franchise is committed to competing with that duo.
And while he said he wouldn’t put “a gun to Kawhi,” George later acknowledged he has a responsibility to make sure Leonard remains a Clipper. “The responsibility is to make him feel like the way I felt when I came into my extension,” George said. “I knew where I wanted to be. I knew who I wanted to play with. That’s my responsibility to go into the season. “Again, it’s Kawhi’s decision. I’m a grown man. If he decides to go elsewhere, that’s a decision that I’ll be happy for him. But my hoping and my responsibility, what I would love, is to play with him for the rest of my contract or the rest of his contract. I guess I have to work on that when it comes to his time.”
The Heat have paid close attention to the blockbuster free agency class of 2021 that could include Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George, sources said, which could keep the organization focused on keeping their salary books as clean as possible in the coming two seasons.
Rachel Nichols: Kawhi on how close he was to choosing the Lakers or Raptors instead of the Clippers: “I was very close. Real close. But when [the Clippers] presented the opportunity of playing with Paul, it was easy, it was a yes. I said let’s get it going.”
JD Shaw: The Los Angeles Clippers have officially signed Kawhi Leonard: pic.twitter.com/DgGDlPShLb
Kevin Chouinard: Clips made Kawhi signing official. Lawrence Frank: “We are grateful and honored that Kawhi has decided to come home and join the L.A. Clippers.” pic.twitter.com/hs6nJRQnmM
But as the Kawhi camp also made escalating demands, the Raptors began to feel that Kawhi and his people were focused on Los Angeles. Kawhi was in Toronto from Wednesday to Friday, and was indeed on the company plane as it flew back to San Diego on Friday morning. No short-term contract was discussed. The Raptors could offer a five-year, $190-million deal: one more year and more guaranteed money than anybody else.
The showdown concluded Friday night, with the league’s balance of power at stake. The Raptors engaged with Oklahoma City in trade talks, though not at the highest levels. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook was believed to be interested in playing with Kawhi, but sources say he was never discussed in talks with the Raptors. And even then, the ask for George was astronomical: Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and four unprotected first-round picks, before they even started matching up salaries to account for George’s higher number. Perhaps that would have been where Westbrook came in, but not likely.
But players run this league, and it was always up to Kawhi to decide. Sources familiar with Kawhi’s thinking indicate Los Angeles was always the plan, in concert with championship contention, and if anything it was a credit to the Raptors that they made it a difficult decision.
The title closed the gap. When Butler decided to sign with Miami instead when free agency opened, it seemed like a blow to the Clippers. Sources indicate Kawhi was genuinely undecided at the time; he wasn’t ready to leave Toronto yet. By Thursday night, sources say the Clippers were telling people in the league they thought Kawhi was going back to Toronto.
The Lakers couldn’t have traded for George if they wanted to. They had emptied their cupboard in trading for Davis and had nothing left to give. According to a person familiar with their thinking, they had no idea that the Clippers and Raptors were attempting to trade for George to give Leonard his desired teammate.
Ramona Shelburne: Key details from Bruce here: Kawhi was indeed in Toronto from Wed-Friday and on the MLSE plane back to San Diego Friday morning. But “For the last two to three days, sources say the Raptors did not believe Kawhi was truly serious about returning to Toronto.“
“It’s certainly disappointing,” Nurse admitted after first saying Leonard’s decision to return to his native Los Angeles was not a total surprise. “I think we all knew that was a situation that could happen and he delivered big-time,” Nurse said at half-time of Toronto’s Summer League game against the Golden State Warriors. “He’s first of all a great person. He was unbelievably fun to coach, just locked in, loaded and ready to go. When people would ask me what was it like coaching him and I always said the best thing was I got to stand there on the courtside and watch this guy go to work. And that was something I’ll never forget. Now we’ve got to go kick his ass,” Nurse said with a smile, echoing the words point guard Fred VanVleet had uttered about Toronto’s task should Leonard become a former teammate.
Justin Trudeau: Sad to see you go, @Kawhi Leonard & @Danny Green! Thank you for helping the @Raptors bring home our first NBA championship. The whole team inspired a new generation of Canadian basketball fans and talent.
Eric Koreen: Masai Ujiri via team statement on Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green pic.twitter.com/oA4xV5COTh
Blake Griffin thinks Kawhi Leonard choosing the Clippers is “good for basketball” … but warns the superstar that L.A. definitely has it’s ups and downs! Griffin would know … he spent 8 seasons with the L.A. Clippers before being traded to the Detroit Pistons in early 2018. In fact, Blake still spends a bunch of his time in Los Angeles — he was at the famous Comedy Store on Friday night — so, we asked him about Kawhi’s big move.
“I think it’s good for basketball, good for L.A.,” Griffin told TMZ Sports … “I think it’ll bring a little bit more balance to the Los Angeles basketball scene, so its good!” But, when we asked Blake if he preferred L.A. to other cites, the 30-year-old didn’t try and sugarcoat his answer. “No, to be honest. I think playing in another city now I see the advantages and disadvantages to playing in different places.” He added, “Everything has a positive and a negative. It just depends on what you value.”
Enter Paul George, the Oklahoma City star who sources say was heavily recruited by Leonard in those days leading up to his trade demand and this blockbuster deal that pairs the two of them with the Clippers. Talk about the least likely of pitchmen. The league’s quietest talent, the man whose one-of-a-kind laugh has been dissected like the Zapruder film and who so many were still convinced was a cyborg because of his robotic ways, got this deal done by selling a fellow Southern California native in the kind of way that left the Thunder with no choice but to make this move. “Kawhi recruited the hell out of him,” one source close to the situation said. “He did a number on Paul.”
Ramona Shelburne: Much will be made of the Lakers and Raptors end of this. But as of about 2 hours before Leonard chose the Clippers Friday night, his camp was asking the Lakers to delay the AD trade until Sat/Sun, sources tell ESPN. No reason given. Just a condition.
It became clear later, sources said Friday night, that George and Leonard had been engaging in conversations about playing together. Within the last week, sources said, Leonard sold George on the notion of pairing up on the Clippers — a sales pitch strong enough George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, communicated to OKC a desire to trade his client.
If George didn’t get his wish, would he be fully engaged? And if he wasn’t, would he go public with his trade demand during the season? That worst-case scenario could have left the Thunder with a disgruntled superstar undercutting his own trade value. There was no easy way out for Oklahoma City. But there was a strong sense, sources said, the Clippers needed George to secure Leonard. And that gave the Thunder some leverage that was unlikely to be available in the future.
George demanded this trade of the Thunder, making it clear in recent days that if they didn’t cooperate he would keep looking for ways to join Leonard in these final two seasons of his contract (he has a player option for 2021-22 worth $37.8 million). They worried about the alternative scenarios, about what those trade offers might look like next year once everyone knew that he had wanted out.
Some time in the last few days, George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, called Thunder general manager Sam Presti and requested George be traded. It was a complete and total blindside to the Thunder, but came because Kawhi Leonard had been working to recruit George to join him with the Los Angeles Clippers. In the end, despite George signing a four-year deal with the Thunder last summer, he remained a free agent.
Chris Haynes: Kawhi Leonard and his camp found it comical throughout the process that he was “reportedly” headed to every team but the Clippers. In the end, his small circle kept everyone guessing. And that’s what occurred: guessing.
Evan Turner: Give kawhi his statue, Toronto
Adam Wexler: Pat Beverley & Lou Williams tonight after they added two new teammates (Kawhi & Paul George). (via Pat Bev’s IG).
Bobby Marks: Toronto will have the full $9.2M midlevel exception and $3.6M biannual exception available to use. The Raptors are over the salary cap even with Kawhi Leonard not returning.
Michael Lee: Clippers made their intentions known how much they wanted Kawhi. Had a pro personnel scout at every game. Doc Rivers took a tampering fine for him. For a loyal guy who chose San Diego State over bigger programs because of its early interest & persistence, this makes so much sense
Ryan Wolstat: Kawhi Leonard lost $90 million (Spurs and Raptors) to eventually team up with Paul George with the Clippers. Would never have happened in the old days when contracts weren’t so high. Would have been way too much money to leave on the table. In era of $30-40M+/yr deals not as big.
Quincy Pondexter: Will drake make a diss track?..
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Leonard and George met in LA earlier in week. Clippers had long been frontrunners for Leonard, but it is unlikely he would’ve made final leap to sign without PG trade. Clippers imagined Leonard as part of a Lakers Big 3 — and knew they had no choice. They did OKC deal.
Adrian Wojnarowski: In the end, Kawhi Leonard didn’t want to construct a Super Team with the Lakers. He wanted a co-star across the Staples corridor with the Clippers, and made it clear to Steve Ballmer and Lawrence Frank: Get PG, and I’m coming.
Sam Amick: Source, to @TheAthletic: After a heavy recruiting effort from Kawhi Leonard, Paul George made it very clear to OKC in recent days that this Clippers trade is what he wanted. He gets his trade demand fulfilled, and now Russell Westbrook’s future is certainly in question.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: As expected, Kawhi Leonard: four-year, $142M maximum contract.
Brett Dawson: Paul George wanted to play with Kawhi Leonard, and the Thunder acted quickly to maximize what they could get out of that desire. I’ve not been told Westbrook is requesting a trade. But logic dictates as OKC loads up on picks and moves off George that it’ll look to move him.
Brett Dawson: Per a league source, the Thunder were caught off guard by Paul George’s desire to play with Kawhi Leonard after a strong recruiting effort from Leonard. The whole situation unfolded in recent days.
Bobby Marks: Timeline for LAC 1. Leonard will sign with cap space 2. Danilo Gallinari/Gilgeous-Alexander for Paul George using the 125% trade exception
Ira Winderman: Remember, Clippers have Heat’s unprotected 2021 and lottery-protected 2023 to package. The first one originally was in the 2015 Dragic trade, the latest for the salary dump to add Jimmy Butler.
Jordan Clarkson: man im going to sleep wtf just happened how pg get involved
Isaiah Thomas: OMG
Patrick Patterson: Wow. It actually happened. Haha
Oleh Kosel: Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN right now: “Paul George came to the Thunder in the last couple of days and asked to be traded to the Clippers. He wanted to play with Kawhi Leonard.”
Free-agent forward Kawhi Leonard has agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Leonard is coming off an all-time NBA playoff run that saw him lead the Toronto Raptors to Canada’s first NBA title.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Oklahoma City is getting a massive package of future picks, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Galllinari, to deliver Kawhi Leonard who he wanted to partner with: Paul George.
Adrian Wojnarowski: After Leonard pushed George to find a way to get to the Clippers, Paul George approached the team and requested a trade, league sources tell ESPN. OKC was left with no choice and made the best out of a difficult situation, per sources.
Ekpe Udoh: Omgoodness ✌🏿
Miles Bridges: WOAHHHHHHHHHHH 😳😳😳
Jaren Jackson Jr.: The LAL v LAC game bouta be sum else👀👀
Chris Haynes: Free agent forward Kawhi Leonard will sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
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July 4, 2022 | 10:35 pm EDT Update
With four years left on Kevin Durant’s contract, and Kyrie Irving having opted in to the last year of his deal, the Nets have leverage and every intention of using it. And league personnel say the Nets have implied if they don’t get what they want, this could well drag on into training camp.
Nets general manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai had agreed to work with Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman to try to trade him to one of his preferred landing spots. But in the end, Durant and Irving are expected to be moved where and when it works best for Nets management.
How the Nets deal with Joe Harris may be the best indicator of how they plan to proceed. He’s the longest-tenured Net, often consulted by Marks on major decisions. “I know the Nets absolutely do not want to trade Joe under any scenario,” a league source familiar with Brooklyn’s thinking told The Post. “But there are just thousands of different ways this can play out.”
Taken in the most recent draft at No. 8 overall by New Orleans, Australian product Dyson Daniels is already impressing the Pelicans’ coaching staff. “We’re playing him in scrimmages we’re putting him in multiple spots,” said Pelicans lead assistant coach Jarron Collins, who will coach in Summer League. “Obviously, he can be a primary ball-handler, he can literally play 1-4 and defend every single position.”
Standing 6′8 with a 6′11 wingspan, Daniels has physical tools to be inserted in various scenarios on the floor in various roles. “Frankly, his versatility will allow us to be creative with our lineups,” Collins said. “And his availability to us putting him in different spots.”
There’s a possibility that the son of a former New Orleans NBA great may become an LSU Tiger. LSU men’s basketball head coach Matt McMahon has given an offer to four-star recruit Andrej Stojakovic, according to a social media post from AAU team Compton Magic out of California. Andrej, the small forward who plays for the Compton AAU team and Jesuit High in California, is the son of former New Orleans, then known as Hornets, great Peja Stojakovic.