OAKLAND, Calif. — After Monday’s championship parade in Toronto, Raptors star Kawhi Leonard can turn his attention to June 30.
At 6 p.m. ET that day, Leonard can begin negotiating with teams as a free agent. Players can’t officially be signed until July 6, but news often leaks out during the negotiating period.
Leonard is expected to opt out of a US$21.3-million player option next season, part of a deal he signed with the San Antonio Spurs before being traded to the Raptors last summer.
The forward, who will celebrate his 28th birthday on June 29, has offered few hints of what he plans to do throughout the season.
"I’m going to enjoy this with my teammates and coaches and I’ll think about that later," Leonard said after Thursday’s championship-clinching win over the Golden State Warriors.
The Raptors can offer more money and term than other teams because of NBA rules.
Toronto can sign Leonard to a five-year, US$190-million deal, about $50 million more than he could make on a four-year deal with another squad.
The Los Angeles native has been linked to his hometown Clippers for months, even dating back to last summer when rumours that Leonard wanted out of San Antonio picked up steam.
When asked if Toronto was one of his preferred destinations for a trade after Thursday’s game, Leonard didn’t do anything to eliminate the L.A. buzz.
"We all know where my destinations were," Leonard said. "But obviously like I said, when I was there on my opening day meeting, I was focused on the now, and I wanted to make history here and that’s all I did."
Leonard is one of several marquee potential free agents, a group that includes Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. However, the latter two suffered serious injuries while playing with the Warriors in the NBA Finals against Toronto.