Last week, Lawrence Frank said there was no timeline for Kawhi Leonard’s return to play. On Monday at media day, Leonard was somehow more nebulous, saying his recovery from his ACL surgery is day-to-day.
But perhaps the most important takeaway from Leonard’s comments is that he didn’t rule out coming back this year. In fact, he made it clear that he would like to play before this season is over. That is why he chose to sign a long-term deal.
Confused? So was I. Allow Kawhi to explain.
“The best situation for me to me was to do a one-and- one, and then opt out, and then sign a long-term five-year deal, but there’s a lot of concerns that that brings up for you guys and your job and it creates storylines that I’m going to leave the team,” Leonard said. “One thing, I wanted to secure some money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year. If I would have took the one-and-one, I probably would have not played just to be cautious, and opted out and took a five-year. But I’m here. I’m here to be a Clipper. I’m not going to another team unless something drastic happens. I’m here for the long run.”
Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard on his 3+1 contract: “The best situation for me was to do a 1+1, opt out & then sign a long-term, 5-year deal… I wanted to secure some money & come back if I was able to this year. If I had took the 1+1, I probably would have not played to be cautious.” pic.twitter.com/e5ONn89UZa— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) September 27, 2021
That long run could begin sooner than later if Leonard is “able” to play this year, as he says. This four-year contract gives him the peace of mind to try to play this season without worrying about upcoming free agency. We knew that the Clippers were relieved to have Leonard back for at least three years; now we know that Leonard desired that security as well.
Leonard is one of several Clippers who looked at the market and realized his best situation was to stay in Los Angeles. He did the Clippers an additional favor of re-upping long-term so that the franchise isn’t held hostage by his free agency and can plan for the future.
The goal in that future is to contend for championships, which is only achievable if Leonard plays. Maybe that happens in 2021-22; at least Leonard has kept some hope for this season alive.
More news for Tuesday:
- Kawhi Leonard spoke about his connection to his hometown of Moreno Valley.
- Karl-Anthony Towns chronicles his year from hell.
- James Dator explains how the NBA is allowing anti-vaxxers to control the league’s messaging.
- Baxter Holmes details the growing rift between league employees who are mandated to get the vaccine and players who refuse to take the shot.
- Ben Falk shares a perspective on Sachin Gupta, the new lead basketball executive in Minnesota.
- The WNBA playoff semifinals start tonight! Tune in at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.