If nothing else, Wednesday offered some confirmation that the Clippers’ brass is working on it.
NBA free agency wore on a third day Wednesday, and Brooklyn and Washington reportedly put a ribbon on a an expanded five-team trade that landed Spencer Dinwiddie in the nation’s capital; All-Star Kemba Walker reportedly agreed to a contract buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder, freeing him up to sign with the New York Knicks; and the one report regarding the Clippers related to a meeting that didn’t even happen.
Otherwise, beyond Serge Ibaka exercising his $9.7 million option for next season and Nicolas Batum re-signing on a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $3.2 million, the Clippers had not come to terms on any other deals by Wednesday evening.
They had, however, been prepared to pitch four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan on Tuesday, according to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, who reported that DeRozan’s agent called off the meeting when the “Clippers’ brass were driving, they were on their way to DeMar’s house (when) things got a little more interesting with the Bulls.” That’s one way to describe a sign-and-trade agreement that reportedly will send DeRozan (Compton High, USC) to Chicago on a three-year, $85 million contract.
Armed outright with only the taxpayer mid-level exception worth $5.9 million, the Clippers would have had to work a sign-and-trade to meet DeRozan’s salary demands, which would have hard-capped them at $143 million, limiting their flexibility in regard to re-signing Reggie Jackson and filling out the rest of the roster.
As it stands, the most the Clippers can offer Jackson, one of the most attractive free agents remaining on the market, is $47 million for four years, via his early Bird rights status with the team.
Whether they would have been prepared to take those steps to woo DeRozan will remain a mystery – which is how Kawhi Leonard prefers the front office operates.
The Clippers’ enigmatic superstar is also an unrestricted free agent after opting out, as he said months earlier that he planned to do.
Now Leonard – who will be sidelined indefinitely while he recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament – can re-sign for four years and $176 million or he can come to terms on a two-year contract with a second-year player option, which would allow him to opt out after next season and then sign a five-year deal worth about $235 million.
The famously private player prefers to keep negotiations quiet; recall how stealthily the Clippers arranged the blockbuster pairing of Leonard and Paul George ahead of the 2019-20 season.
“A lot of things are made up now,” Leonard said on July 24, 2019, when he was introduced as a Clipper. “You start a website or a blog and push that out and say, ‘Kawhi’s doing this, Kawhi’s doing that.’ But it’s always important to me to have a mutual understanding between everyone and just be transparent, if it’s good or bad, and I feel like that builds a great relationship.
“I feel like once we had our meeting, they were true to their word, nothing really got out.”
First 48-hour free-agency Posted Up w/ C. Haynes Pod feat @VinceGoodwill. Impressive front office of Bulls, retooled Lakers, CP3 effect, what I anticipate Damian Lillard doing & what happened to DeMar DeRozan & Clippers.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 4, 2021