Clippers star Kawhi Leonard says he's likely to opt out of contract if healthy
Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard examines the Nuggets defense during a game on February 28 at the Staples Center. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
With Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, LeBron James and Anthony Davis all agreeing to contract extensions in recent weeks, the NBA's once-starred free agent class of 2021 has lost some of its biggest names. But not all of them.
Just like in 2019, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard could become the main attraction whose decision the NBA turns next summer. Leonard can decline his player option for the 2021-22 season and make the free choice. A decision he made on Monday could depend on his health this season.
"Just for my current situation, I'm only concentrating on this season," said Leonard before training on Monday, the day before the Clippers season opener against the Lakers. "I'm not saying I'm going anywhere or staying here, but I'm just focusing on the season.
"Obviously, if I'm healthy, turning down the player option is the best decision, but that doesn't mean I'll leave or stay." I focus on the season like I said. We'll talk about it when the time is right. "
Leonard signed a three-year deal worth $ 103 million after joining Clippers as a free agent in 2019. The last year was a player option. Having dealt with injuries throughout his career, exercising the option would allow for a level of near-term stability of $ 36 million with guaranteed next season.
Rejecting the player option has long been seen as a likely path for Leonard, as the timing could allow him to win the most lucrative contract of his career. This season marks Leonard's 10th in the NBA; A player who has completed 10 seasons is entitled to a maximum of 35% of a team's salary cap.
Clippers striker Paul George, whose deal with the Clippers helped win Leonard's engagement as a free agency, could have become a free agent after this season, but instead a four year extension worth $ 190 million . George said he had informed Leonard - who is currently not eligible to sign an extension - of his decision and was "hopeful" that the two will play together in the long term.
"Hopefully it's a mutual bond and the two of us enjoy playing together," said George earlier this month. "Everyone has their own decisions to make and hopefully I'll show my commitment to be here and want to play with them in the long term."
Leonard said he appreciated George's communication that he wanted to stay with the Clippers. Both are from Southern California.
"I talked to Paul, he felt comfortable here," said Leonard. "He loves the city, he's obviously from here so I think from his standpoint he did a great job of coming to me and telling me how he was feeling before signing the contract."
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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