Los Angeles Clippers star guard Kawhi Leonard revealed that his desire to return this season factored into his decision to sign a longer deal this summer. Leonard, who suffered a partially torn ACL injury during the playoffs, missed the Clippers' last eight playoff games.
Leonard underwent a surgery on July 13 to repair his damaged knee and there is no guaranteed that he will be able to play this season. Leonard could have signed a shorter deal but he opted for stability and decided to sign a long-term deal with the Clippers.
"Because I wanted to play," Leonard explained of his decision at the team's media day on Monday. "I mean, the best situation for me was to do it one-and-one and then opt out and sign a long-term five-year deal.
But there's a lot of concerns that that brings up for you guys and your job, and it creates storylines that I'm going to leave the team [after one year]. "I wanted to secure some money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year.
If I would have took the one-and-one, I probably would have not played [this season] just to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year."
The Clippers don't want to rush Leonard's comeback
Clippers head coach Ty Lue would love to have Leonard for the opener but he knows that's just not possible.
"I hope he comes back October 21st [for the opener]," Clippers head coach Ty Lue said when asked if he allows himself to think Leonard might be back for the playoffs. "But the reality is he's not going to be ready then.
We don't want to force him or put any pressure on him. We want to make sure he's rehabbing, doing everything he can to get back as soon as possible, and if that's next season, that's next season. "We don't want to force him to come back too early.
We want to make sure he's 100% when he does come back." Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said Leonard's timetable for return was unknown. "It's just, no one knows when you're dealing with a recovery from an ACL [injury], the time frame," Frank said.
Leonard is focused on getting better each day. "Just day-to-day," Leonard said. "Just working with the staff day-to-day, and then when that available date comes, we'll be ready for it, and it'll be out in the public."