LA Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard says his need to return this season factored into choice to signal max deal

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — Kawhi Leonard mentioned a part of the rationale why he signed a four-year max contract to stay with the LA Clippers as a substitute of choosing a shorter deal that might result in a extra profitable contract is that he hopes to return and play this season.

Leonard wouldn’t give a timetable for his restoration from surgical procedure on July 13 to restore {a partially} torn proper ACL that stored him out of the Clippers’ ultimate eight playoff video games. He’s anticipated to overlook important time. However the group’s star revealed {that a} doable return this season factored into his choice to signal his four-year, $176.3 million contract in August.

“As a result of I needed to play,” Leonard defined of his choice on the group’s media day on Monday. “I imply, the most effective scenario for me was to do it one-and-one after which choose out and signal a long-term five-year deal. However there’s plenty of considerations that that brings up for you guys and your job, and it creates storylines that I will go away the group [after one year].

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“I needed to safe some cash, and I needed to have the ability to come again if I used to be capable of this 12 months. If I’d have took the one-and-one, I in all probability would haven’t performed [this season] simply to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year.”

The Clippers have steered away from setting any timetable for when Leonard can return to play. Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations, mentioned final week that “we do not even breach that” when requested if he anticipates Leonard having the ability to play this season.

“It is simply, nobody is aware of once you’re coping with a restoration from an ACL [injury], the time-frame,” Frank mentioned.

Leonard mentioned on Monday that “it’s extremely difficult” taking the rehab day-by-day, particularly as a result of he is injured “and probably not feeling like I used to be injured.” Leonard suffered the harm throughout Recreation 4 of the second spherical of the playoffs towards Utah after he was fouled on a drive. Leonard initially thought he was OK however the group stored him out of the ultimate minutes of that sport. He even traveled with the group to Utah earlier than returning to Los Angeles previous to Recreation 5 as soon as he came upon he was out. The group initially referred to as the harm a sprained proper knee.

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“I hope he comes again October twenty first [for the opener],” Clippers head coach Ty Lue mentioned when requested if he permits himself to assume Leonard may be again for the playoffs. “However the actuality is he isn’t going to be prepared then. We do not wish to pressure him or put any stress on him. We wish to be certain he is rehabbing, doing all the pieces he can to get again as quickly as doable, and if that is subsequent season, that is subsequent season.”

“We do not wish to pressure him to return again too early. We wish to be certain he is 100% when he does come again.”

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Leonard’s harm factored into his free-agency choice this offseason. He might have signed a four-year, $187 million extension had he opted into the $36 million he was set to earn within the 2021-22 season. However he declined that possibility without cost company.

As a free agent, Leonard might have signed a two-year, $82 million cope with a participant possibility in 2022-23 and turn into a free agent once more in 2022, which might have made him eligible to signal a five-year, $235 million max contract with the Clippers, in keeping with ESPN’s Bobby Marks. However Leonard hopes to return this season, so he went with the five-year deal.

Staying with the Clippers was by no means unsure for Leonard. Now the query is when he can return to play once more.

“Simply day-to-day,” Leonard mentioned. “Simply working with the workers day-to-day, after which when that accessible date comes, we’ll be prepared for it, and it will be out within the public.”

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