Kawhi Leonard isn’t going anywhere. The Los Angeles Clippers saw to it that the two-time NBA Finals MVP is staying put. The team announced that Leonard has re-signed with the ballclub, which is good news for Clips Nation.
“Kawhi is a transcendent player and a relentless worker who improves himself every day,” Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations for the Clippers, said in a released statement. “We share many of the same goals, which include a long-term relationship. This agreement marks another important moment for our franchise and our fans, as we strive to create a championship-caliber organization, where players find the success and fulfillment they seek. We’re eager to continue building with Kawhi. For now, we will do whatever we can to support him in his recovery from injury. We look forward to seeing him back where he wants to be, on the court with his teammates.”
With Leonard signed, the Clippers can go about their business of meshing together as a unit and contend for an NBA title, something that wasn’t in the cards for them this past season.
The Clippers came close to realizing a dream of making it to the NBA Finals, but a knee injury to Leonard during a Western Conference semifinal series against the Utah Jazz, curtailed that hope.
Because of the outstanding play of Leonard against Utah before he went down and was forced to sit out , the Clippers, behind Paul George and Reggie Jackson, rallied to oust the conference No. 1 seed from the playoff and advance to the Western Conference Finals.
It was the Clippers’s first trip to the Western Conference Finals, a huge momentous boost for Leonard and George, the two stars the Clippers brought to Los Angeles during the 2019 offseason.
The Leonard signing is a big deal on so many levels for the Clippers. First, they have two of the biggest names in the NBA under their roof with extended contracts. Paired with George, Leonard gives the Clippers a chance to win it all, something the team would have been extremely hard-pressed to do without him.
The second reason why it was important for the Clippers to re-sign Leonard is the fact every other team in the league has gotten significantly better, especially if you take a peek over your shoulders and see what the other Los Angeles team has done in free agency and through trades this offseason.
The chess move by the Los Angeles Lakers to go out and get two-scoring champ Russell Westbrook in a trade deal, without doubt put added pressure on both the Clippers and Leonard to get a deal done. The Clippers simply could not afford to give ground to their STAPLES Center rival. Losing Leonard would have put the Clippers on the back street again.
It’s a good thing the team doesn’t have to worry about the scenario again. The first season Leonard and George played together ended in a thud, with the Clippers as a team shrinking in the moment, bowing out in the second round of the 2020 NBA playoffs after blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets.
That left a sour taste in the mouths of Leonard, George and the rest of the Clippers. The team parted ways with then head coach Doc Rivers in the aftermath of that postseason meltdown and hired Tyronn Lue, his top assistant.
All Lue did since then was direct Leonard, George and the Clippers to a platform they had never attained in the history of the franchise.
When they originally signed Leonard, who hails from Moreno Valley, the team was thinking nothing short of winning an NBA championship. The expectations are justified considering that Leonard won titles with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors.
Leonard, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a five-time NBA All-Star, played great during the regular season in his sophomore year with the ballclub, averaging 24.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists a game.
Leonard upped his level of play in the playoffs during the Clippers’ sensational postseason run.
Leonard dropped 40 or more points on the Mavericks twice in the first round, including a 45-point effort in Game 6 on the road to help the Clippers advance to play a Game 7 at home.
After being down 0-2 in the series, Leonard and the Clippers rallied to beat Dallas in Game 7 to take out the Mavericks for the right to play Utah in the second round. Against Dallas, Leonard averaged just over 32 points and nearly eight rebounds (7.9) a game.
Against the Jazz, the Clippers found themselves in a 0-2 deficit again. Leonard helped lead the Clippers to knotting the series at two games apiece after scoring 31 points in Game 4 of that series. The Clippers played the next two games without Leonard and defeated Utah in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals to play the Phoenix Suns.
Featured Image Caption: May 25, 2021-Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) goes to the basket against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the team’s first round NBA playoff series. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline