A few years ago, it seemed like the summer of 2021 could give us one of the best free agency classes of all time. Instead, stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George and Rudy Gobert have all signed extensions to remain with their respective clubs, and the excitement has died down.
Still, free agency is always interesting, and there could still be some big names hitting the market. In particular, Kawhi Leonard has a player option for next season and could opt out this summer to become an unrestricted free agent. But even if he does, would he really leave the Los Angeles Clippers?
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As of now, signs are pointing toward no. Leonard likes being in Southern California and has a gotten along well with head coach Tyronn Lue, the front office and ownership, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on the latest episode of the “Woj Pod” podcast.
Wojnarowski’s full comments on the Leonard situation:
I think Kawhi is staying with the Clippers. He hasn’t said that publicly. Probably won’t until the day he signs his contract. I don’t sense — I know there’s been some mention of Miami, could Miami be a sleeper for him. I think he’s where he wants to be geographically. I think he’s gotten along very well within the organization, with management, with ownership.
I think Ty Lue has really, really been good this year for them. The way it’s been described to me with Ty in L.A. is Ty can hit you without leaving a bruise. Can coach you hard, can hold guys accountable. I think that’s an environment Kawhi likes. I think it’s been good for this team.
But listen, things can go sideways when you get knocked out earlier than you expect.
As Wojnarowski noted at the end, there’s never any guarantees, and the Clippers have a lot to prove in the playoffs this season. If they get bounced in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks, or there’s some sort of breakdown in Leonard’s relationship with the organization, then sure, it’s always possible he reconsiders his future.
For now, however, Leonard re-signing with the Clippers just makes too much sense. One of the primary reasons he signed with the team in the first place back in 2019 is because he wanted to return home. It seems unlikely that he would suddenly decide that’s not important to him.
Plus, Paul George just re-signed, and Leonard wanted to play with him. Together, they’re enough to make the Clippers contenders in the Western Conference every season. If he tried to look elsewhere, it would be tough to find a better on-court situation.
Again, you can never be 100 percent sure about free agency, especially with a person as private as Leonard. Still, Clippers fans should feel pretty good about him being with the team long term.