SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers is “pretty confident” that he’ll be able to sign star guard Stephen Curry to an extension this summer after the 33-year-old led the league in scoring by averaging 32 points a game and was a top-three finalist for the MVP award.
“I don’t see any reason not to be optimistic,” Myers said during an end-of-the-season video conference on Monday. “He seems like he’s motivated; we’re motivated. I would say pretty confident we’ll get something done.”
As ESPN’s Bobby Marks noted, Curry’s new extension would be record-setting: He would become the first player in NBA history to sign two separate deals worth over $200 million. Curry became the first player to sign a supermax extension in 2017 while inking a deal worth $201 million over five years. He is now eligible to sign a four-year $215.4 million extension that would keep him under contract through the 2025-26 season.
“Obviously we want Steph back in the worst way,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “There’s no reason to think why that won’t happen. We’re excited about that. We’re excited about next season. You know, coming back with Draymond [Green] and Steph playing at such a high level to finish the season and to get Klay [Thompson] back and to have the opportunity to fortify our roster, to see these young guys emerge, it’s all very exciting.”
One of the reasons the Warriors remain so excited is that they are confident that Thompson, who missed his second straight season after suffering ACL and Achilles injuries, will return to the floor. As Myers pointed out, it doesn’t appear likely that Thompson will be ready for the start of the regular season.
“I don’t know that it’ll be the start of the year,” Myers said. “We’ll see more as camp gets closer. When I say start of the year, I mean Game 1. I don’t know if that’s realistic or not. That’ll be less than a year. … I don’t know what date the season opens up, but I think that’ll be 11 months. I don’t know that that’s realistic.
“I want to talk about Klay a lot, but I’m reluctant because I don’t want to use that as an excuse. I don’t want people to think, when Klay comes back, everything is going to be great. As great as he is, and it will help a lot, we have to look at our team and say Klay will be a huge addition, but there’s other areas where we need to improve on as well. But I don’t know exactly when it’ll be.”
Myers said a key for him heading into the offseason is adding veterans to the roster. Aside from Curry, who Myers said played with a “small hairline” fracture of his tailbone down the stretch, and Green, the Warriors didn’t have a strong veteran presence like they did off the bench in years past.
“I do know we need veterans, and the one area I can say without kind of equivocating is we have to add some veterans in free agency,” he said. “We just have to. We’re well aware of that. We’ll try to do it. We actually tried to do it last year with a few guys, so it wasn’t as if that mindset didn’t exist. It doesn’t matter, nobody cares, but we were in second place with quite a few guys that I think were veteran, could have helped, but they chose to go to a team after Klay’s injury that they thought they could win it more, and that’s fair to them.”
Myers offered an explanation for why the Warriors struggled to add a greater veteran presence compared to other teams in recent years.
“Some even said, ‘Had Klay not gotten hurt I would have come,'” Myers said. “Who knows if that’s true or not. But that’s the thing we hope we’ve accomplished in the last couple months, is proven to some of those kind of guys, I think the Warriors can win. They have to believe that. I hope we’ve showed that we’re close. But that’s what you get when you’re looking at a vet minimum guy or a vet taxpayer that’s maybe taking less money, is can I win with the Warriors? There’s no doubt they like playing with Steph and they love Steve, and I think they view our organization as one that takes care of its players.”
One of the players the Warriors appear to want to take care of most is 20-year-old center James Wiseman. After Wiseman’s up-and-down rookie season that ended abruptly after he suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee in April, Myers made it clear that he did not plan to deal the young center during the offseason.
“I think he can help us,” Myers said. “I expect him to be on the team next year. We don’t want to trade James Wiseman. I think he’s a tremendous talent, and he was put in a position where, again, the guy is taking hopefully all of his lumps early in his career, but I think he can be very helpful to us in the future. I think he can be helpful in the present.”
Myers also said that Kelly Oubre Jr. “did make it clear he’d like to be here” in their exit interview, but Kerr also noted that while he liked Oubre and hoped he would return, the swingman would be doing so off the bench.
“Klay is going to start when he gets back,” Kerr said. “So would Kelly be interested in coming off the bench? That’s a question only he can answer. He’ll weigh his options, we’ll weigh ours, and we’ll see where it all goes. But really like Kelly, really think he’s got great potential to be very helpful on our team.”
Kerr also said that despite the painful losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies during the play-in tournament, he is hopeful the concept stays in the game because he believes the tournament is good for the league.
“I joked that — a month ago — I would hate it if we lost and love it if we won, but honestly I love it,” Kerr said. “I think it’s great. I think it’s great for the league, and what’s great for the league should be more important than being worried about the eighth seed missing out on the playoffs. I think it should be something we stay with. There was more interest in more games down the stretch than there has been in a long time. There were some mini-races within teams trying to avoid seventh. I thought it was fascinating as a fan.”
As for his own team’s future, while he’s optimistic that his group can turn things around quickly, he agreed with Green’s assessment after Friday’s loss to the Grizzlies that the organization was “a ways away” from another title.
“I actually agree with that,” Kerr said. “I think it would be arrogant for us having just missed the playoffs to say, ‘Hey, we’re right there.’ We’re a ways away, but we like the path that we’re on. We love the fact that … we’ve got Steph and Draymond playing at a high level, we’ve got young players who have emerged.
“We know James is going to be better with a year under his belt. We’ve got a couple first-round picks; we’ve got free agency coming up. Most importantly, we’ve got Klay coming back. You throw all that together and I like our chances to make a big leap. But no, we can’t sit here and honestly say we’re close to a championship because Draymond is right: We’ve got to make the playoffs first before we say that.”
Chris Paul declines $44 million player option for next season
Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul has formally declined the $44 million player option on his contract for next season, but both Paul and the Suns are motivated to negotiate a new deal once talks can begin at 6 p.m. ET on Monday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Sunday.
Paul had a midnight ET deadline to decline the option and become an unrestricted free agent.
Paul was faced with the decision after coming just two wins away from the first championship of his 16-year career in his first season with the Suns.
The 11-time All-Star is coming off a season in which he averaged 16.4 points on 49.9 percent shooting (39.5 percent from 3), 8.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game
Following the Suns’ Game 6 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals, Paul seemingly hinted at interest in staying in Phoenix to help the Suns get over the hump.
“I think for me, I just look at myself and figure out how can I get better, what I could have done more and make sure I come back next season ready to do it again,” he said.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.
Miami Heat positioning to become frontrunners to land Kyle Lowry in sign-and-trade with Toronto Raptors
The Miami Heat are positioning themselves to become front-runners to land Kyle Lowry in a sign-and-trade agreement once discussions are permitted to begin with the opening of NBA free agency on Monday, sources told ESPN.
Lowry has long been intrigued with joining Heat star Jimmy Butler and the Miami organization, and now Miami has maneuvered to have two key elements of a possible sign-and-trade package — guard Goran Dragic and forward Precious Achiuwa — to offer the Raptors once talks can ensue at 6 p.m. ET on Monday, sources said.
While negotiations on sign-and-trade agreements aren’t allowed to begin until free agency opens, teams are able to prepare for scenarios and those contingencies are beginning to take shape inside front offices ahead of Monday.
Lowry’s free agency decision promises to have a domino effect throughout the league, where several free agent point guards are looking to line up with teams wanting new starters at that position.
The Heat picked up the option on Dragic’s $19.4 million contract for the 2021-2022 season, making him an ideal contractual fit to include in talks to make a deal possible with the Raptors. A market exists for the Raptors to move Dragic, 35, onto a new team, including the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, sources said.
Achiuwa, a well-regarded 2020 first-round pick out of the University of Memphis, showed significant promise in his rookie season and would serve as a sweetener to Toronto to facilitate a sign-and-trade deal, sources said. Miami could add draft assets to a package, too.
Dragic has been a longtime mentor to Mavericks star Luka Doncic, both natives of Slovenia. They also share an agent, Bill Duffy of BDA Sports. The Raptors have Fred Van Vleet returning at point guard, and drafted playmaker Scottie Barnes out of Florida State with the No. 4 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
Lowry, 35, made $30 million in the final year of his contract and is seeking a deal in a similar neighborhood of starting annual salary over multiple years with his new team, sources said. New Orleans and Dallas are two teams with salary cap space and strong interest in Lowry who are beginning to search elsewhere for starting point guard help, sources said.
Because Miami doesn’t have the salary cap space to sign Lowry outright, the Heat are motivated to provide the Raptors with assets that would incentivize Toronto’s participation in helping Lowry land in Miami.
Lowry could sign into cap space with Dallas or New Orleans, which would cause Toronto to lose Lowry for nothing.
Lowry has been a six-time All-Star since arriving in Toronto in 2012 in a trade and helped the franchise win an NBA title in 2019.
Kawhi Leonard declines $36 million player option for next season
Kawhi Leonard has declined his $36 million player option for next season to become a free agent, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Sunday.
The expectation is that Leonard will negotiate a new deal to remain with the LA Clippers, according to Wojnarowski. Leonard can potentially sign a four-year, $176.2 million deal or could do a one-and-one and become a free agent in 2022, when he could sign a five-year deal worth $235 million, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
Leonard’s decision to decline his option comes in the wake of July 13 surgery to repair a partially torn right ACL that kept him out of the Clippers’ final eight playoff games. Leonard is expected to miss significant time as he rehabs his injury.
“We hope to have a very long-term relationship with him,” Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said last week. “… Right now our focus, like Kawhi, is on his health. He had major surgery. He tore his ACL. That’s going to require a great deal of time and we want to support him in that.”
Leonard said back in December that declining his option doesn’t mean he is necessarily leaving the Clippers.
“Obviously, if I’m healthy, the best decision is to decline the player option,” Leonard said in December. “But that doesn’t mean I’m leaving or staying.”
Leonard averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 52 regular-season games during his second campaign with the Clippers. He missed nine out of 10 games in April because of a foot injury.
Prior to Leonard’s knee injury, the Clippers got a glimpse of their potential with Leonard and Paul George playing their best basketball together on the playoff stage. Leonard averaged 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 57.3 percent in 11 postseason games.
After the Clippers reached their first Western Conference finals in franchise history, they hope to bring back their biggest free agents like Leonard, Reggie Jackson and Nic Batum. Center Serge Ibaka opted into the second year of his deal on Saturday.
Leonard’s decision to decline his player option was first reported by Yahoo Sports.
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