SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Kawhi Leonard is going to be a fixture for the San Antonio Spurs for years to come.
Leonard agreed to the basic parameters of a five-year contract to stay with the Spurs early Wednesday, a deal that could be worth $90 million according to a person with direct knowledge of the agreement. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract cannot be finalized until July 9, per NBA rules.
Keeping Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP, is the first of many things the Spurs hope to accomplish in the coming days. Leonard will sit in when the Spurs meet with free agent LaMarcus Aldridge on Wednesday, part of the group that will make a sales pitch to one of the most coveted members in this year’s class.
Leonard averaged 16.5 points this past season for the Spurs, and followed that up by averaging 20.3 points in San Antonio’s seven-game loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. His scoring average — and his role — has grown each year with the Spurs, who still hope to have their core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili together for at least one more season.
And while their “Big Three” still is revered, it’s the just-turned, 24-year-old from San Diego State who has emerged as a colossal part of the Spurs’ formula for success.
Leonard was dominant in the 2014 title series against Miami, averaging 17.8 points on 61 percent shooting and bouncing back from the emotional sting of missing a late free throw in the Spurs’ costly Game 6 loss to the Heat in the 2013 finals.
He became the youngest player to win the MVP award in the finals since Duncan in 1999.
“He’s a great learner and he’s super competitive, has a drive to be the best that’s really uncommon in our league,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Leonard in that 2014 title run. “He walks the walk. I mean, he’s there early, he’s there late. He wants more. He wants me and the coaches to push him. So I just talked to him about not being in that defer sort of stage. The hell with Tony, the hell with Timmy, the hell with Manu, you play the game. You are the man.”
He’s now going to be paid like it.
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