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Kawhi Leonard declines player option, becomes free agent

Jun 14, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) passes the ball against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the second half in game four in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) passes the ball against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the second half in game four in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard declined his player option with the Los Angeles Clippers for next season, making him a free agent, multiple media outlets reported on Sunday.

The player option was worth $36 million, but ESPN reported that Leonard is expected to negotiate a new deal to remain with the Clippers.

However, that does not preclude him from the possibility of testing the open market once again.

The 2021 NBA free agent period officially begins at 6 p.m. ET on Monday.

Leonard, 30, joined the Clippers two years ago following a high-stakes free agency period that saw multiple teams courting him.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP (2014, 2019) and two-time Defensive Player of the Year (2015, 2016) is a Southern California native who chose the Clippers in 2019 over the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors.

In two seasons with Los Angeles and Paul George at his side, the Clippers reached the Western Conference semifinals but no further. The Clippers lost to the Phoenix Suns in the conference semis in 2021, with Leonard sidelined for the entire series with a knee injury.

Leonard underwent surgery on a partially torn ACL in his right knee on July 13.

In 52 regular-season games in 2020-21, Leonard averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals per contest. He was named to the All-NBA First Team for the third time of his career.

–Field Level Media