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Robert Covington stays with Clippers on two-year, $24-million contract extension

Clippers forward Robert Covington, right, shoots in front of Golden State Warriors forward Otto Porter Jr.
Clippers forward Robert Covington, right, shoots in front of Golden State Warriors forward Otto Porter Jr. on Feb. 14. Covington is staying with the Clippers on a two-year deal.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
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The Clippers locked down one of their offseason priorities by agreeing to a two-year extension with forward Robert Covington worth $24 million, a person with knowledge of the agreement not authorized to speak publicly confirmed Thursday.

Covington could have become an unrestricted free agent this season, entering a market with limited salary cap space around the NBA, but by taking advantage of rules that made him eligible for an extension, Covington will earn slightly more than what he could have earned from the nontaxpayer midlevel exception.

Covington was acquired Feb. 4 in a deal with Portland that also netted the Clippers guard Norman Powell. While Powell, seen as a franchise cornerstone playing alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, battled a foot injury to stay on the court initially, Covington made an impression with the team by doing things both expected and not. A career 36% three-point shooter, the 31-year-old, 6-foot-7 wing shot 37.8% on threes with the Clippers. He made a franchise-record 11 three-pointers in a game against Milwaukee in April. A former NBA all-defense selection, his 2.8% steal percentage outpaced his career average and his help defense and fast hands — ones teammate Nicolas Batum said could lead to theft as deftly as those of Leonard — thwarted numerous drives past teammates.

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But Covington also showed different sides of his game than he had to start the season in Portland, with his effectiveness driving past defenders closing out on him at the perimeter and either scoring or finding an open shooter. Coach Tyronn Lue even noted Covington’s driving with the ball had been a pleasant surprise. He also fit into the locker room, with Covington saying after the season-ending loss in April that his time with the Clippers, following the trade, had been the most fun he’d had all season and that Lue’s energy “is just infectious.”

“It’s great to have Cov, who is a proven vet, defensive versatility, I think you guys see it,” said Lawrence Frank, the team’s president of basketball operations, last month. “His team defense is when you watch him play, if you just watch him off the ball, that’s really his magic. And then one, he’s not afraid to take threes, and he makes them at league or above-league average depending on the year.”

At that time, Covington said his offseason choice would be guided by one thing — something the Clippers, with Leonard and George healthy again next season, could provide an opportunity to chase.

“Everybody wants, at the end of the day, they want to go and have a ring on they finger,” Covington said in April. “The main thing that we do in this whole time that we play is to win a championship and that’s my ultimate goal. I’m about to walk into my 10th year and nobody thought that I would make it to 10 years. They said I wouldn’t make it to two, but I’m getting ready to prepare for my 10th year so I’ve had a great career thus far and made a name for myself, and like I said, I want to put myself in the best position to win a championship.”

In June, the Clippers will know whether another long-armed, switchable forward in Nicolas Batum will pick up his player option for next season — but Batum also signaled last month an excitement about the Clippers’ potential next season.

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