Free agency begins a week from today, and the Clippers have a potentially cataclysmic decision awaiting: the future of Kawhi Leonard.
Unlike his last free agency two years ago, there hasn’t been much drama regarding Leonard’s choice. It’s not because Leonard is injured — even when Kevin Durant was sure to miss the entire 2019-20 season, Durant had a line of suitors eager for his services (Leonard even called him to join the Clippers) before he joined the Nets.
The lack of intrigue instead stems from the fact that Leonard telegraphed his move to Los Angeles two years ago and then forced the Clippers to move hell and high water to build this team. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to leave a team where he can exert influence over the organization, compete for a championship, and be close to his family. That’s why there isn’t any buzz about Leonard leaving the Clippers.
In the “Woj & Lowe” draft special on ESPN Sunday, Adrian Wojnarowski poured cold water on whatever rumors might still be flying around about Leonard’s future, saying, “I’ve gotten no indication that Kawhi Leonard is interested in doing anything but re-signing with the Clippers.”
Wojnarowski went on to say that the Clippers are preparing for the offseason as if Leonard will be coming back in free agency. He didn’t specify as to when Leonard’s return will be, but the Clippers are operating as a title contender and pursuing players who fit that goal.
There also was no clarity as to what the cap mechanics of Leonard’s return will be. He can opt out and sign a new four-year, $176.2 million contract this summer or a shorter-term deal that allows him to hit free agency within a year, when he’ll be eligible for a five-year max. He can also opt in to the final year of his current deal, worth $36 million, and then extend for four years at $181.5 million. Essentially, Leonard has a lot of good options financially.
The most important detail of Leonard’s next contract is that he signs with the Clippers, and the latest reporting suggests that is what will happen.
More news for Monday:
- ESPN did a mock draft before Woj & Lowe Sunday, and they have the Clippers taking Day’Ron Sharpe out of North Carolina. Another center?
- Nic Batum and Team France won their opening game — against Team USA!
- Mo Dakhil dives into what went wrong for the Americans.
- In other Olympics news, Luka Dončić is good against everyone, not just the Clippers.
- Here are the health and safety protocols for NBA Summer League.
- Katie Heindl has a delightful story on Giannis Antetokounmpo and joy.