It’s official: Kawhi Leonard wants to run it back. Leonard will be staying with the Clippers on a four-year deal, with the final year as a player option, per reporting from Chris Haynes. The maximum Leonard could sign for was $176 million over the four seasons.
BREAKING: All-NBA star Kawhi Leonard and Los Angeles Clippers have reached agreement and he has signed a new four-year contract that includes a player option, solidifying the star’s future with the team, league sources tell @YahooSports. https://t.co/Cjq5MfX1pF— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 12, 2021
This move was expected by many, especially when it was reported that his season-ending injury against the Utah Jazz was a partial ACL tear. The Clippers’ efforts to re-sign Leonard were not completely without incident, though. Skip Bayless suggested that Leonard’s camp was not happy with the Clippers’ training staff who were tasked with rehabbing his ACL tear, potentially leading to a repeat of the 2018 San Antonio Spurs. This signing helps dispel those rumors, demonstrating Leonard’s confidence in the Clippers’ training staff to bring the two-way star back to his playoff form.
To call this signing the main priority for the Clippers is an understatement. Leonard’s regular-season averages brought a career-high in assists and minutes, as well as a near-career high in field-goal percentage. His playoff performance was even more remarkable, helping bring the Clippers to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, winning elimination games against Dallas almost single-handedly. He offers an elite two-way versatility that is rare in today’s league, being able to switch onto any player on any given defensive possession while also offering an elite scoring prowess that few can match. The pairing of Leonard with Paul George was impressive when compared to their lackluster 2020 performance, with schematic changes and better chemistry making the fit even smoother.
It’s hard to view the Clippers as championship contenders without Kawhi Leonard. By signing him, however, the Clippers will remain a competitive team in the west. This will allow the team to continue building off of franchise “firsts”, including acquiring the most coveted “first”: a championship.