Clippers sign Kawhi Leonard to contract extension

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 18: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers warms up at halftime against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on December 18, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has signed a contract extension with the Los Angeles Clippers, the team announced Wednesday, removing one of the biggest names from the 2024 free-agent market.

"We’re thrilled to continue our relationship with Kawhi. He is an elite player, a terrific partner and a relentless worker who knows how to win and makes it his first priority,” Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said in a surprise statement. “He elevated our franchise from the moment he arrived. We feel fortunate that Kawhi chose to join the Clippers five years ago, and excited to keep building with him."

Leonard, 32, owned a $48.8 million option for the 2024-25 campaign, the final season of the four-year, $176.3 million extension he signed with the Clippers in 2021. The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that the deal is for a fully guaranteed three years and $152.4 million with no player option and is about $8.5 million under the maximum salary amount.

A member of the NBA's 75th anniversary team, Leonard is averaging 23.8 points (on 52/43/87 shooting splits), 6.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game for the fourth-place Clippers (23-13). The four games he missed due to a bruised left hip were his first absences of the season. He has not played more than 60 games in a season since 2016-17, his penultimate year with the San Antonio Spurs.

Clippers co-star Paul George has the same $48.8 million option in 2024-25 and can become a free agent at season's end. Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, "extension talks" between George and the Clippers are "ongoing," and the "organization continues to want to get both stars lined up on longer-term contracts."

The Clippers are scheduled to open a new arena next season in Inglewood.