Spurs star Kawhi Leonard plans to explore restricted free agency in 2015

Adrian WojnarowskiThe Vertical
Yahoo Sports

San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard plans to explore restricted free agency next summer after contract extension discussions ended, his agent Brian Elfus told Yahoo Sports on Friday afternoon.

Elfus and Leonard have held firm on their desire for a maximum contract extension, something Spurs management won’t consider until July.

Kawhi Leonard is seeking big money from the Spurs. (AP)
Kawhi Leonard is seeking big money from the Spurs. (AP)
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“We feel Kawhi is deserving of a max contract, and we are disappointed that something couldn’t get done,” Elfus told Yahoo Sports. “There’s no debating Kawhi’s value. The market has been set. He’s done everything the Spurs have asked of him, exceeded all of their expectations. Coach [Gregg] Popovich has gone out of his way to call Kawhi the future face of the franchise. We have great respect for the Spurs organization, but here, we simply agree to disagree.

“There will be no shortage of teams interested in Kawhi’s services next year. There will be a lot of contract scenarios available to us, and we will explore them all.”

Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, needed to reach an agreement by midnight ET on Friday – the deadline for rookie extensions for the 2011 draft class.

Leonard, 23, is considered one of the NBA’s rising young stars, and multiple league executives told Yahoo Sports that he’ll command a max offer sheet on the market. The Spurs would be expected to match and retain Leonard, but there remains the risk of Leonard signing a similar offer sheet to what forward Chandler Parsons signed with the Dallas Mavericks.

As a restricted free agent with Houston, Parsons signed a three-year, $46 million offer sheet that included a player option on the third year. With a deal such as this, Leonard could become an unrestricted free agent and potentially leave the Spurs in 2017.

San Antonio could sign Leonard to a five-year, $90 million-plus extension now or next summer, if the Spurs are willing to make him their designated player. The Spurs want to keep Leonard’s salary off the books until they have a chance to explore free-agent targets next summer, especially if Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili retire, league sources said.

Even so, San Antonio is running a short-term risk for future financial flexibility, and there could be consequences. Leonard watched several Spurs get rewarded with new contracts before this season, and these circumstances can sometimes impact the fragile chemistry of a team.

Leonard missed the preseason with an eye infection but is expected to make his debut Friday night in Phoenix.

Leonard averaged 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, two assists and 1.7 steals per game in 29 minutes in the 2013-14 season. Leonard averaged 14.3 points in the playoffs as the Spurs won the NBA title.

Leonard was the second-youngest NBA Finals MVP winner in history, behind only Magic Johnson.

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