When LA Clippers star Paul George agreed to a maximum contract extension a little more than a week ago, the conversation almost immediately turned to his running mate, Kawhi Leonard, and whether he, too, would be re-upping for another few years with the franchise.
George elected not to speak for Leonard on several occasions, stating that the two-time Finals MVP's upcoming free agency was his to handle — though George hopes his new commitment makes Leonard feel more inclined to return.
On Monday, Leonard addressed his potential free agency for the first time by directing attention to the upcoming season.
"For my situation right now, I'm just focused on this season," Leonard said. "I'm not saying I'm going anywhere else or staying here, but I'm just focused on the season. Obviously, if I stay healthy, the best decision is to decline a player option, but that doesn't mean I'm leaving or staying... We'll talk about that when the time is right."
Leonard has a player option for the 2021-22 season, and he would become an unrestricted free agent the following year. The expectation is that Leonard will decline his option for next season and then sign a "supermax" contract with the Clippers so that he could earn a larger guaranteed salary over a longer period of time. It would be the largest of his career and one of the most lucrative in NBA history.
He could, of course, sign elsewhere. Every team in the league could use a guy like Leonard, who is currently considered to be one of the top players in the NBA. But Leonard seems satisfied with his current situation in Los Angeles, and the Clippers have made a point to surround him with complementary talent. Not only did LA re-sign George for an additional four years this offseason, but the franchise also brought in Serge Ibaka on a multi-year contract, who is one of Leonard's closest friends in the league.
Ultimately, there's no reason to worry about Leonard remaining non-committal about his future with the Clippers. A return seems likely at this point, and so long as the franchise remains committed to winning a championship, LA will have the upper hand.