NBA

Clippers star Leonard says hopes of return for this season influenced contract decision

By Sports Desk September 27, 2021

Kawhi Leonard revealed Monday he is hoping to play for the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and those aspirations were a factor in signing a four-year deal to remain with his hometown team this off-season. 

Leonard suffered a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Game 4 of the Western Conference semi-finals against the Utah Jazz and had surgery July 13. 

A typical ACL return timetable would suggest Leonard is set to miss the entire upcoming season, but the 30-year-old was not willing to accept that as a given. 

That in turn led him to sign a four-year max extension worth more than $176million rather than take a one-year deal with a player option and opt out after this season to sign for five years. 

"I wanted to play," Leonard said at the team's pre-season media day. "I mean, the best situation for me to me was to do it one and one and then opt out and sign a long-term five-year deal, but there's a lot of concerns that that brings up for [the media] and your job and it creates storylines that I'm going to leave the team.

"One thing, I wanted to secure some money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year. If I would have took the one and one, I probably would have not played [this season] just to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year.

"I'm here. I'm here to be a Clipper. I'm not going to another team unless something drastic happens, but I'm here for the long run."

Optimistic as he is about being able to play this season, Leonard declined to try and put a timetable on when that might occur. 

He said his focus is day to day, working with the Clippers' medical staff on whatever he needs to do to get back on the court while helping the team however he can in the meantime. 

"That's the challenge of it, just seeing how quickly I can get better and how much stronger I can get than what I was when I'm healthy," Leonard said. "That's where I pretty much turn my mindset to.

"Now just watching games as a coach, being in the coaches' meetings and trying to make myself relevant as possible."

The Clippers' head coach, Tyronn Lue, said the team will "let him take his time and continue to do his rehab" and adjust whenever Leonard is ready to return. 

"I hope he comes back October 21st, but the reality is he's not going to be ready then," Lue said. "We don't want to force him or put any pressure on him. We want to make sure he's rehabbing, doing everything he can to get back as soon as possible, and if that's next season, that's next season.

"We don't want to force him to come back too early. We want to make sure he's 100 per cent when he does come back."

Related items

  • Giannis admits Cavs deserves greater respect after dominant Bucks win Giannis admits Cavs deserves greater respect after dominant Bucks win

    Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo thinks the Cleveland Cavaliers deserve more respect after their impressive defeat of the reigning champions.

    The Cavs moved to 30-19 for the season, with eight wins from their past nine games, thanks to a dominant 115-99 home victory over the Bucks.

    Cleveland have already comfortably surpassed their win total from last season, when they claimed just 22 victories and were in the draft lottery for the third year running, and only one side in the Eastern Conference has won more than their 30 games in 2021-22.

    After falling behind in the first quarter, they dominated the middle phase of Thursday's game, beginning the second half with a three-pointer triple in 48 seconds before marching into a 93-72 lead.

    Giannis tallied 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists on his return from a knee problem but his efforts were not enough.

    Last year's Finals MVP said there is little doubt the Cavs are now contenders not just for the playoffs, but for the title.

    "This is not the Cleveland we knew over the past few years," said Giannis, who brought chicken wings to his post-game media conference.

    "They have a good team, and we have to respect them more. They're a playoff team and are fighting for the title themselves."

    Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of arguably their best win of the season: "It's who we are. We take on all challenges.

    "We don't run from anybody. We don't back down. We give everybody our best shot."

    Counterpart Mike Budenholzer had few complaints about the result, adding of the Cavs: "They played lights out tonight.

    "I don't know what the right analogy is, but they played really well. They beat us pretty good.

    "Live ball turnovers is when transition defense is the toughest, and we made a lot of them."

  • Booker sets franchise record as Suns win eighth straight, Cavs down Giannis' Bucks Booker sets franchise record as Suns win eighth straight, Cavs down Giannis' Bucks

    The Phoenix Suns recorded their eighth consecutive victory as they defeated the Utah Jazz 105-97 with Devin Booker producing another 40-point game on Wednesday.

    Booker had 43 points, 12 rebounds and four assists after a first-quarter scoring blitz as the Suns opened up an early 39-18 lead.

    Chris Paul (21 points) added some key points down the stretch as the Jazz rallied in the last quarter.

    The 25-year-old shooting guard recorded his 16th career 40-point game, moving past Amar'e Stoudemire for most in Suns franchise history, sitting ahead of Tom Chambers and Walter Davis too.

    The victory means the table-topping Suns improve to 38-9 overall and 8-0 on the road this calendar year.

     

    Hornets break records in Pacers rout

    The Charlotte Hornets set a franchise record for single game scoring and produced the highest points total this season as they downed the Indiana Pacers 158-126. The Hornets hit 24 three-pointers, with LaMelo Ball (29 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists) and Kelly Oubre Jr (39 points) starring.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers underlined their credentials as contenders with a 115-99 win over the champions Milwaukee Bucks. The Cavs moved above the Bucks with their eighth win in their past nine games, with Kevin Love scoring 25 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks.

    Ja Morant was exceptional with 41 points, five rebounds and eight assists as the Memphis Grizzlies won 118-110 over the San Antonio Spurs, while Nikola Jokic (26 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) led the Denver Nuggets past the depleted Brooklyn Nets 124-118. James Harden was out with hamstring tightness.

     

    Bulls wayward but winners

    The Chicago Bulls only managed seven three-pointers, shooting at 26.9 percent from beyond the arc yet they won 111-105 over the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls had lost six of seven but have steadied to win their past two, with DeMar DeRozan having 29 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

  • 'We'll see': Nash provides injury updates on Harden and Durant 'We'll see': Nash provides injury updates on Harden and Durant

    Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash has provided injury updates on James Harden and Kevin Durant after reports that the latter would be out until after the All-Star Game.

    Harden missed Wednesday's 124-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets with "hamstring tightness" while Durant has not played since spraining his MCL on January 15.

    The Nets did not provide a timeframe on Durant's return although ESPN claimed it would be between four and six weeks.

    ESPN also reporting this week that Durant would miss the All-Star Game scheduled for February 20 although Nash did not confirm that.

    "We'll re-evaluate in the next week or so," Nash said at the post-game news conference. "We’ll see how his rehab goes and what the re-evaluations tell us."

    Durant is currently averaging 29.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists through 36 games this season.

    Harden has averaged 23.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 10.1 assists this season, but is also averaging 37 minutes per game with the absences of Durant and Kyrie Irving impacting his on-court time.

    "I think we're all hopeful he'll play next game," Nash said about Harden with the Nets to play the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

    "It's day to day, so we'll see. It's likely, probable and we're all very hopeful that he'll be ready to go."

    Cameron Thomas top scored with 25 points against the Nuggets, while Patty Mills impressed with 21 points, three rebounds and six assists.

    The defeat leaves the Nets with a 29-19 record having lost three in a row, slipping to fourth in the east.

    "Details. We're proud of the guys' effort, but details, we talked about them last night," Nash said.

    "Part of that, is we had some guys play together who've not played many minutes together over the last few years so there's some cohesion that is lacking and some understanding and familiarity lacking.

    "That's where we have to improve especially with guys out of the lineup."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.