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#pounditWednesday, May 22, 2024

Clippers announce major news on Kawhi Leonard’s future

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is officially sticking around to play in the Intuit Dome.

The LA Clippers made the big announcement on Wednesday that the former Finals MVP Leonard has agreed to a contract extension with the team. While the terms of the extension have yet to be released, the move clears up some major uncertainty over Leonard’s future as he otherwise would have been able to test free agency during the summer with his $48.8 million player option for 2024-25.

Leonard, 32, joined the Clippers as a free agent in 2019 (with fellow star forward Paul George coming at the same time in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder). The Clippers have fallen short of their ultimate goal in the five years since (with Leonard still having trouble staying healthy and most notably missing the entire 2021-22 season due to a torn right ACL). But 2021 did see the Clippers secure their first-ever conference finals berth in franchise history, and the present still looks plenty bright thanks to James Harden helping juice up the team to a 23-13 record (fourth in the West).

The five-time All-NBA selection Leonard remains as magnificent as ever when on the court. Despite having many other ball-dominant teammates, Leonard is averaging 23.8 points a game on supreme 52/43/87 shooting splits this season. While he missed a few games recently with a hip injury, Leonard has also been widely available thus far, playing in 32 of a possible 36 games (including back-to-backs).

For the Clippers, this year was seen as a possible last dance of sorts as Leonard, George, and Russell Westbrook all would have had the potential to opt out in the summer (with Harden definitively becoming a free agent then as well). But with Leonard, a Southern California native, signing a new extension with the team, one massive domino has fallen. Owner Steve Ballmer is clearly willing to spend whatever it takes to stay competitive for years to come, and another one of those stars might just be next to extend.

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