In 2018, when LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, he signed a four-year deal with an opt-out and a no-trade clause. He was putting down roots, establishing himself and his brand in Los Angeles. On the surface, it was a shock because it was businessman LeBron who mainstreamed the two year deal with a player option. Now he was all in with the Lakers, a team with a young core, a young coach, and a playoff drought. LeBron was saying I do. He was going forward with the marriage.
When Kevin Durant signed with the Brooklyn Nets, it was a committed marriage. For a while, Durant had followed in the James footsteps, signing two-year opt-out contracts with the Warriors. But with the Nets, Durant and his ripped Achilles agreed to three years with an extra option year.
Three years in an organization is stability. It gives the front office time to move players, make trades, build a contender. The superstar player is saying by his commitment, I want to stay here. It is a marriage and not a courtship. Player and organization are not dating. They are willing to better or worse it, in sickness and in health.
It was assumed that Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers were married and not a dating thing. But, oops. No. Leonard signed a LeBron like deal, two years with an opt-out in year three. It mimics the Paul George contract and puts the pressure on the Clippers to make the surrounding pieces around Kawhi fit or else. From day one the Clippers have been on the clock. It’s not win now. It’s win right now or I’m gone. It also allows other teams to maneuver their roster if the Clippers find a way to somehow mess it up. Or, for the Clipper curse to kick in one more time. Or, for Doc to choke and lose another series when leading 3-1. Or, for Playoff P to be a disaster in Game 7 and then look for excuses.
The Clippers have had exceptional talent over the years. Not in bunches but good players have worn the uni. Danny Manning. Pooh Richardson. Cuttino Mobley. Bill Walton. Gary Grant. Chris Kaman. Ron Harper. Corey Maggette. World B. Free. Blake Griffin. DeAndre Jordan. Chris Paul. Grant Hill. Elton Brand. Bob McAdoo. But something always happens.
When the Clippers used to play at the Sports Arena, season ticket holders used to think the Sports Arena was built on an ancestral burial ground. Bad things kept happening. Fluke things. Moving to the Staples Center didn’t change the sorrow. Injuries piled up. Chris Paul. Chauncey Billups. Blake Griffin.
Shaun Livingston, a lottery pick, shattered his knee, and the blood curdling scream he let out hung over the arena for weeks. Elton Brand ripped his Achilles.
Or, the Clippers hurt themselves by trading an unprotected draft pick to the Cavaliers for Mo Williams and that pick became Kyrie Irving. Or before Showtime was Showtime, they traded just drafted Byron Scott to the Lakers and in return got Norm Nixon who had good years for them but didn’t propel them to greatness.
Not to mention the Hall of Fame players they turned down in the draft: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki. Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, Shawn Kemp, Scottie Pippen.
How about when the Clippers were positive Kobe Bryant was going to sign with them in free agency only to have now Clippers adviser Jerry West talk him out of it by telling Bryant you can’t trust Donald Sterling.
There is that tragic list of former Clippers who have died too soon. Malik Sealy. Kevin Duckworth. Stanley Roberts. Rasual Butler. Sean Rooks. Lorenzen Wright was murdered.
So of course, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sign 3 year guaranteed deals and Kawhi Leonard only signs a two-year deal. Clippers for Life just doesn’t exist.
Kawhi is here until he is here. And then, gone again. Maybe as soon as 2021.