The Los Angeles Clippers and Kawhi Leonard have come to an agreement on a new four-year contract to keep the All-Star forward in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future. Leonard's contract includes a player option for the final season of the deal and will pay the forward a total of $176.3 million.
"Kawhi is a transcendent player and a relentless worker who improves himself every day," Lawrence Frank, the team's president of basketball operations, said in a statement. "We share many of the same goals, which include a long-term relationship."
While there was never any serious concern about Leonard bolting to another team, before free agency started it was reported that he was going to "listen to other teams" before making a decision on where he would play next season. There hadn't been much news out there about which teams he was going to entertain, but now he is officially staying in L.A. and trying to win a championship for the Clippers.
Although Leonard will be returning to L.A., he's expected to miss a significant portion of the 2021-22 season after having surgery to repair a partially torn ACL in July. He sustained the injury during the Clippers' playoff run, but L.A. didn't announce that he tore his ACL until the team was bounced in the Western Conference Finals by the Suns. There's currently no timetable for his return next season.
When Leonard was healthy, he put up another stellar performance in the playoffs, averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He was unable to play in the Clippers' last two games of their semifinal series against the Utah Jazz and remained sidelined for the entirety of L.A.'s series against the Suns. Although the Clippers managed to get by the Jazz without Leonard, it was evident that the team severely needed his talents on both ends of the floor against a Suns team that employed a potent offensive attack.
Securing Leonard to a new contract ensures that the Clippers will be title contenders when he becomes fully healthy again, which might not be until the 2022-23 season.