Kawhi Leonard has declined his $36 million player option for next season to become a free specialist, a source affirmed to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Sunday.
The assumption is that Leonard will negotiate a new deal to stay with the LA Clippers, Wojnarowski detailed. Leonard can conceivably sign a four-year, $176.2 million arrangement or could do a one-and-one and become a free agent in 2022, when he could sign a five-year bargain worth $235 million, as per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
Leonard’s choice to decay his option comes in the wake of July 13 medical procedure to fix an in part torn right ACL that kept him out of the Clippers’ last eight season playoff games. Leonard is relied upon to miss critical time as he rehabs his injury.
“We hope to have a very long-term relationship with him,” Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said last week. “… Right now our focus, like Kawhi, is on his health. He had major surgery. He tore his ACL. That’s going to require a great deal of time and we want to support him in that.”
Leonard said back in December that declining his choice wouldn’t mean he is essentially leaving the Clippers.
“Obviously, if I’m healthy, the best decision is to decline the player option,” Leonard said in December. “But that doesn’t mean I’m leaving or staying.”
Leonard averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 52 regular-season games during his second mission with the Clippers. He missed nine out of 10 games in April on account of a foot injury.
Before Leonard’s knee injury, the Clippers got a brief look at their potential with Leonard and Paul George playing their best ball together on the season finisher stage. Leonard averaged 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 57.3% in 11 postseason games.
After the Clippers arrived at their first Western Conference finals in franchise history, they desire to bring back their greatest free agents like Leonard, Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum. Focus Serge Ibaka picked into the second year of his deal on Saturday.
Leonard’s decision to decline his player option was first revealed by Yahoo Sports.