NBA

Paul and Leonard expected to decline options ahead of NBA free agency period

By Sports Desk August 01, 2021

Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard are expected to decline player options for next season ahead of the NBA free agency period opening on Monday, but the veteran stars may stay with their teams.

After leading the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals, Paul will not exercise his $44million option for the 2021-22 season, The Athletic reported. ESPN added that the Suns are optimistic they will be able to re-sign the 36-year-old. 

Yahoo Sports first reported Leonard would decline his $36m option with the Los Angeles Clippers and become an unrestricted free agent, but ESPN reports he is expected to remain with the Clippers on a new deal after suffering a season-ending knee injury during the playoffs. 

Even if they end up staying where they are, those two will be the two biggest names on the open market beginning on Monday, but others figure to be available in trades. 

Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors may top that list as he is expected to move on from Toronto. ESPN reported that the Miami Heat's move to pick up Goran Dragic's $19.4m team option might have been designed to facilitate a sign-and-trade deal for Lowry. 

Ben Simmons also could be on the move from the Philadelphia 76ers, but Bradley Beal now seems set to stay with the Washington Wizards after they sent Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers in a draft-night trade. 

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    Thompson, who endured a 941-day layoff due to Achilles and ACL injuries before returning earlier this month, scored 17 points in the first half before finishing with 21 in his fourth game back.

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    Kerr also brushed aside any concerns about Curry, who sat out the last quarter and appeared inhibited by the hand injury which kept him out of Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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    Thompson, who endured a 941-day layoff due to Achilles and ACL injuries before returning earlier this month, scored 17 points in the first half before finishing with 21 in his fourth game back.

    The 31-year-old three-time NBA champion impressed alongside Stephen Curry (18 points and eight assists) in a sizzling 66-38 first-half in Tuesday's 102-86 win, with Kerr describing it as their "best stretch together" since his return.

    "That was probably he best stretch that Steph and Klay have played together," Kerr told reporters. "It was a nice groove in front of our home fans."

    Kerr added: "It's good to see him get hot and hear the crowd behind him. He got into a little rhythm. We had a great first half, 20 assists, the ball was moving, Klay was a big part of that."

    The former Chicago Bulls guard said that he felt there were signs that Thompson was physically getting close to his best, having played on managed minutes since his return.

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