Kawhi Leonard declines $36 million player option for next season

Kawhi Leonard has declined his $36 million player option for next season, becoming a free agent, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Sunday.

The expectation is that Leonard will negotiate a new deal to stay with the LA Clippers.

Leonard’s decision comes in the wake of having surgery on July 13 to repair a partially torn right ACL that kept him out of the LA Clippers’ final eight playoff games.

Leonard could potentially miss a chunk of the upcoming season. The Clippers stated in their news release announcing the surgery that there was no timetable for his return.

Despite the injury, Leonard remained the biggest star in the league with a decision to make this summer concerning his future. He decided between opting into his contract for $36 million in 2021-22 with the option of then signing a four-year, $181.5 million extension that would start in 2022-23 or declining the option and potentially signing a four-year, $176.2 million deal.

Leonard averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 52 regular-season games during his second campaign with the Clippers. He missed nine out of 10 regular-season games in April because of a foot injury.

Prior to Leonard’s knee injury, the Clippers got a glimpse of their potential with Leonard and Paul George playing their best basketball together on the playoff stage. Leonard averaged 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 57.3 percent in 11 postseason games.

Yahoo Sports first reported that Leonard has declined his option.

ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.

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