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#pounditThursday, May 13, 2021

Articles tagged: Kawhi Leonard

Report: Kawhi Leonard widely expected to remain with Clippers

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard will have the opportunity to test the free agent market again this offseason, but it does not sound like this process will be anywhere near as interesting as it was the last time he did.

Leonard has a $36 million player option for 2021-22 that he is expected to decline. However, according to Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic, the Los Angeles Clippers fully expect Leonard to re-sign with the team this offseason. That sentiment is shared by rival executives, who see Leonard remaining in Los Angeles “barring a dramatic turn of events.”

While it’s not impossible that Leonard softens his stance — the event of another Clippers playoff collapse is named as one factor — it’s widely known that Leonard wants to play in Southern California, and that was a decisive factor in his decision to join the Clippers in the first place. The organization has also removed uncertainty by keeping Leonard’s star teammate in the fold for years to come.

Leonard has been quiet about his upcoming free agency, but that’s the way he does things. For now, the 29-year-old seems pleased with the Clippers, and as long as that continues, his free agency appears unlikely to lead to much drama.

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Kawhi Leonard likely to remain with Clippers?

Kawhi Leonard

The LA Clippers may not have much to worry about with the future of their fun guy.

Tom Haberstroh of TrueHoop reported this week that there is currently “no reason” to think that Kawhi Leonard will leave the Clippers this summer. Haberstroh quotes an anonymous non-Clippers executive who places the odds of Leonard leaving at less than one percent. The report also says that “most people” think Leonard will stay, noting how the Clippers afford him the luxury of commuting from his home in San Diego.

The 29-year-old Leonard has a $36 million player option for next season. Serge Ibaka, Leonard’s closest friend on the team, also has a player option of $9.7 million. But Leonard’s co-star Paul George recently signed a lucrative extension that will keep him with the Clippers through 2024, keeping a good foundation in place for the team.

Things can change quickly in the NBA, especially if the Clippers come up short again this postseason. But it is hard to imagine a cushier situation for Leonard, who already has two NBA titles and is given superstar concessions by the Clippers. While Leonard has been noncommittal on the subject of his free agency recently, there seems to be a very clear expectation that he will be staying put.

H/T HoopsHype

Kawhi Leonard becoming more vocal leader for Clippers this season?

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard is not exactly known for being vocal, but he appears to be developing on that front in the interest of becoming a better leader.

LA Clippers big man Serge Ibaka spoke recently on Leonard’s improved leadership skills this season. Ibaka had previously played with Leonard on the Toronto Raptors, winning the NBA championship together in 2019.

“I see him more vocal than my first year when we played in Toronto,” said Ibaka, per Farbod Esnaashari of SI. “This year he’s talking more, he’s involved more in everything. I can see he really learned from last year.”

The Clippers struggled from a leadership void of sorts last season. Leonard often seemed detached, and co-star Paul George ultimately failed to earn the respect of some teammates. Meanwhile, more tenured Clippers like Patrick Beverley, himself a very animated figure, appeared to have somewhat of a disconnect with the team’s new stars.

This season has been a different story though. The Clippers are 21-9 (third-best in the league) and have developed a palpable cohesion under new head coach Tyronn Lue. One of the team’s other starters has also spoken positively about the Clippers’ locker room atmosphere this year.

Kawhi Leonard draws attention for funny ‘Power Rangers’ pregame outfit

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard likes making unusual fashion statements. We got another one on Friday.

Leonard arrived for Friday night’s game at Golden State with a unique fashion statement: a strange patterned shirt that bore at least a passing resemblance to a Power Rangers outfit. And plenty of people noticed it, too, giving it the meme treatment in response.

In reality, the shirt looks like it’s supposed to depict a K, a nod to the first letter of his name. That’s not how it came off to the internet. It’s kind of a weird fashion statement to make anyway.

On the other hand, Leonard has been quite content to make unorthodox fashion statements before. Why change now?

Kawhi Leonard ready to play in more back-to-backs

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard’s various injuries have kept him from playing in back-to-backs for nearly four years now, but that finally changed this week.

The Los Angeles Clippers forward successfully played on back-to-back nights Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s the first time he’s done that since April 2017, when he was still a member of the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard made clear that he intends to keep playing in back-to-backs going forward as well.

“I mean, I think I’ll be playing, pretty much,” Leonard said Wednesday, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “The last few years, I was injured, and I worked on getting my leg stronger, and it’s been a long time. But I was patient, and I’m able to play.”

Clippers coach Ty Lue admitted that Leonard was a bit fatigued early in the second game of the back-to-back against Golden State, but felt fine afterwards. He scored 21 points in 35 minutes in that game Wednesday.

Leonard has at times been scrutinized for his infamous “load management.” There were, however, signs that the team was ready to start backing away from that toward the end of last season. Now it looks like they have once and for all.

Kawhi Leonard jokes about trading Clippers teammate after mishap

Kawhi Leonard

One of Kawhi Leonard’s teammates may be feeling his wrath now that the former Finals MVP is back from injury.

Leonard returned to the court for the LA Clippers on Wednesday, notching 28 points and seven assists in a blowout win over the Portland Trail Blazers. After the victory, Leonard joked about trading away teammate Serge Ibaka, who elbowed him in the mouth during a Christmas Day contest, causing Leonard to miss the next two games.

“Serge can’t talk too much,” said Leonard, per Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints. “We got him on the trading block right now. So whoever wants him, let us know. We trying to trade Serge.”

While Leonard’s stone-faced delivery might suggest otherwise, Ibaka has little to worry about. The two are close, having previously been teammates on the Toronto Raptors and winning the 2019 NBA title. Ibaka also recently told a hilarious story about how Leonard recruited him to the Clippers.

Paul George defends stars getting preferential treatment from Clippers

Paul George

Paul George defended the preferential treatment star players receive with the Los Angeles Clippers.

There was talk at various points last year that some Clippers players were upset with the star treatment George and Kawhi Leonard received. A report in January said some Clippers players struggled with the preferential treatment for Kawhi and PG. Another report surfaced in October said the same thing, but focused on Kawhi.

George led the Clippers with 33 points in an opening-night victory over the rival Lakers on Tuesday night. He was interviewed by TNT after the game and asked about the star treatment reports. George defended the practice.

“The dudes that put in the work that built themselves up to be where they at, it’s a reason they get to that level. They know what they need and they know what makes them play at a high level,” George said.

George also hinted that the players who had the issues are no longer with the team.

“Whoever that offends, we ain’t have that history right now in this locker room.”

We have an idea of whom George is talking about with that comment.

George is right in a sense. Yes, players who have put in the work to build themselves into stars should know what type of effort and training they need. At the same time, those players are team leaders and cannot take advantage of the situation nor set bad examples by letting others think they don’t need to work hard.

If Tuesday night’s win is any indication, maybe the Clippers have figured things out this season.

Kawhi Leonard goes viral for Hanukkah-looking haircut with menorah

Kawhi Leonard menorah hair

Braids are the new style in the NBA this season, and Kawhi Leonard drew some extra looks for a special design in his hair.

Leonard’s LA Clippers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 116-109 in the season opener between the teams on Tuesday night. Kawhi had 26 points in the game.

Fans noticed that Kawhi’s braids were styled to create a menorah-looking shape in the front.

The menorah is a special candle holder used during Hanukkah, which was celebrated earlier in December.

The style of Kawhi’s hair is likely coincidental and completely unrelated to Hanukkah, but it was appreciated by many.

Leonard’s teammate, Paul George, also had braids, but there was not detectable holiday theme to them. There’s another Western Conference star who is rocking the braids too.

Kawhi Leonard shares thoughts on potential free agency

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard was one of the most highly recruited free agents of the modern NBA era before he signed with the Los Angeles Clippers last year. Is it possible he could do it all over again next summer?

Leonard signed a two-plus-one contract with the Clippers, which means he has a player option for the 2021-22 season. When asked on Monday about potentially becoming a free agent again, Leonard was noncommittal on remaining with L.A.

“Not saying I’m going anywhere else or staying here but I’m just focused on the season.,” Leonard said, via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “Obviously, if I’m healthy, the best decision is to decline the player option but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving or staying … We’ll talk about that when time is right.”

Paul George’s contract was initially scheduled to expire at the same time as Leonard’s, but George recently signed a massive extension with the Clippers. Leonard is obviously not planning to do the same.

Given the way things ended for the Clippers last season, it would not be a surprise if Leonard wants to see how things play out before making a decision. He’ll be playing for a new head coach in Tyronn Lue, and there was some troubling talk about chemistry issues with the Clippers recently. If that situation doesn’t improve, Leonard may want to explore other options.

Clippers plan to run interesting new offensive sets for Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard

The LA Clippers’ offense sputtered down the stretch last season due to a lack of creativity, and new coach Tyronn Lue is now planning to address that.

Lue told reporters Sunday that the team will employ some triangle offense sets this season for Kawhi Leonard, citing his ability to operate in the pinch-post area. Lue added that Leonard has expressed a desire to run the triangle.

“We have put in two or three sets of the triangle and let Kawhi play in those spaces where Kobe [Bryant] and [Michael] Jordan played in those spots as well,” said Lue, per Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “He loves those two players and he really respects and looks up to those guys. So, we just try to put him in position. I was able to play with both those guys and I also played in the triangle, so just trying to teach him that as well … teach our team as well.”

As Lue alluded to, the coach is very well-acquainted with the triangle offense. He was teammates with Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers under triangle savant Phil Jackson, winning two championships in their three seasons together. Lue was later teammates with Jordan on the Washington Wizards as well.

While the triangle has gone out of style in today’s NBA, it is a good way to mitigate the lack of a true playmaking point guard by initiating actions out of the pinch post with a big wing who can hit the midrange jump shot. The Clippers fit that billing with Leonard as their primary offensive weapon and a lack of true point guards on the roster. Hopefully they do a better job of running the triangle than the last team who tried though.

Clippers fans, show everyone who runs Los Angeles with this great “We Run LA” shirt. It makes a perfect gift for you or a friend – you can buy it here: