Why does Kawhi Leonard always stall free agency?
Kawhi Leonard declined his $36 million player option with the Los Angeles Clippers for the 2021-22 season prior to free agency and is taking his sweet time in making a decision. The expectation is that Leonard will re-sign and return to the Clippers.
However, with the five-time All-Star being as calculated as he is, it’s hard to rule out the possibility of him doing the unthinkable and leaving Los Angeles. With Leonard delaying his decision in 2021, this marks the second straight time he is doing so after his shocking move to the Clippers in 2019.
With that comes the question: Why does Kawhi Leonard keep stalling in free agency? The only person who could answer that question is, well … Kawhi Leonard.
There’s a joke that Leonard has actually already made up his mind but is just going after the free dinners offered by his suitors as they try to lure him into their franchise. That very well could be the case. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get free luxurious meals and be treated like a king?
In reality, though, all we can do at this point is speculate. But we could also look at how his previous free agency in 2019 went down.
To recall, Leonard just came off a historic title run with the Toronto Raptors before heading into free agency. Having just led the Raptors to their first NBA championship, a lot of teams certainly wanted to sign Leonard when the market officially opened on June 30. Near the end, three suitors emerged as the front-runners for the reigning Finals MVP: Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Clippers.
Just like he is doing in 2021, Leonard didn’t rush and carefully sought through his options. Then, as we came to know, he made the league-shattering move to the Clippers on July 6, breaking Raptors and Lakers Nation’s hearts in the process.
He did this all while cooking up a plan to bring Paul George along with him. The Clippers parted ways with pretty much their entire cupboard of draft picks along with a promising guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to land the two two-way stars. With that, he basically forced LA’s hand to trade the entire future.
For all we know, Leonard could be doing the same in his free agency this year and conspiring with another superstar to bring with him to another team. That would definitely be a nightmare scenario for the Clippers.
Clippers fans probably don’t appreciate Leonard stalling. They are obviously at the edge of their seats waiting for his decision. Seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry echoed those sentiments and blasted the two-time Finals MVP for being unfair to the Clippers organization by making them wait and watch other prospective free agents go off the market.
Nonetheless, it’s likely that Leonard is just carefully sifting through all his options as he works out a new deal with the Clips. He could agree to a long-term deal that would lock him up with the Clippers over the next three to four years. It’s also possible that the 30-year-old signs a 1+1 deal that would once again make him a free agent in 2022 after he misses most or all of next season due to ACL surgery.
As to why he is taking such a long time with his free agency, Kawhi Leonard probably just wants to ensure that he is making the right decision. It’s hard to fault him for taking his time on thinking about his next career move. There’s a given period for free agency anyway.
Why rush, right?