After the smoke cleared from a chaotic first few hours of NBA free agency Sunday, the most sought-after target in the entire class, NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, remained uncommitted.
Leonard did not hold formal meetings with suitors including the Clippers, Lakers and Toronto Raptors, a source not authorized to speak publicly on the matter confirmed. Leonard plans to hold meetings later in the week, Yahoo reported. But if Leonard preferred to wait, he was the exception amid a flurry of activity that quickly led to dozens of agreements across the league.
One of those agreements, reached late Sunday, will keep Patrick Beverley with the Clippers. The 30-year-old guard, who had been open about his intent to find the most lucrative contract of his career following a strong season, agreed to a three-year contract worth $40 million, he confirmed to The Times.
“I’m back, baby,” he said.
Beverley’s contract was the lone agreement the Clippers reached on a day in which all of Leonard’s suitors were reluctant to make moves as they waited to hear more from the star forward. As they paused, numerous big-name players who might have been a potential running mate with Leonard wasted little time to commit elsewhere.
As it stands, the Clippers firmly believe Leonard has the talent — and track record, after his heroics leading Toronto to the NBA championship — to deliver the franchise to new heights even if no one else with All-Star credentials joins him. The team remains confident in a returning core that includes Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Montrezl Harrell.
Still, with few marquee options still on the market, it makes Leonard’s decision essentially make-or-break as far as the team’s hopes of adding a star capable of transforming the team into a title contender.
Among the big names to commit elsewhere Sunday, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are Brooklyn-bound. The 76ers will get forward Al Horford. And Klay Thompson, who was expected to consider the Clippers had Golden State not offered a five-year, $190-million contract, still intends to re-sign with the Warriors.
Durant’s decision to join the Nets, who will also reportedly sign former Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, dealt a blow to the Clippers’ dream of pairing the 6-foot-11 scorer with Leonard, the NBA’s best two-way player. Durant was long considered a wild card to actually join the Clippers.
Not every player decided their future in free agency’s first few hours Sunday.
Danny Green, a guard who has won NBA titles alongside Leonard in San Antonio and Toronto, spoke with the Clippers soon after teams were allowed to contact players, a source said. Forward Marcus Morris, a Clippers target, has yet to find a home. The same goes for former Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins.
One of the largest contracts agreed to Sunday was Philadelphia’s offer of $180million over five years to Tobias Harris. The move validated the Clippers’ choice to trade him before February’s deadline. The Clippers were never believed to be willing to pay the forward such a salary — he declined an $80-million extension from the team last summer — but instead of keeping him, only to see him walk in free agency, the Clippers received Shamet and an unprotected first-round pick in 2021 as part of the deal.