George leaving Clippers; Caldwell-Pope to Magic; CP3 to Spurs

Published 9:23 pm Sunday, June 30, 2024

The Associated Press

Paul George is leaving the Los Angeles Clippers, his now-former team announced Sunday night, with all signs pointing to the nine-time All-Star perhaps returning to the Eastern Conference and joining the Philadelphia 76ers.

George could command more than $200 million over four years if his next contract is for max value.

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“Paul has informed us that he is signing his next contract with another team,” the Clippers said in a release Sunday night.

The team added, “We negotiated for months with Paul and his representative on a contract that would make sense for both sides, and we were left far apart. The gap was significant. We understand and respect Paul’s decision to look elsewhere for his next contract.”

George had a $48.8 million option for this coming season but did not exercise it, entering free agency — which opened Sunday night — instead. It was believed there was a chance that George and the Clippers could have still gotten something done, but the team made clear that those hopes are gone.

“We will miss Paul,” the Clippers said.

At 34, George is still elite — averaging 22.6 points this past season, the ninth consecutive season in which he has averaged at least 20 points per game.

Meanwhile, James Harden is staying with the Clippers on a two-year contract that includes a player option, a person with knowledge of that decision told The Associated Press earlier Sunday.

Harden’s deal — which could be worth up to $70 million if he opts into 2025-26 — was agreed upon in principle before free agency technically started, said the person who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because neither Harden nor the Clippers had announced the agreement.

Harden, a 10-time NBA All-Star, averaged 16.6 points and 8.5 assists last season for the Clippers, who will move into their new Intuit Dome home when this coming season starts.

Elsewhere, veteran guard Chris Paul is going to team up with rookie of the year Victor Wembanyama in San Antonio on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of that agreement said.

Paul was waived earlier Sunday by the Golden State Warriors, who would have had to pay him $30 million for the coming season otherwise. ESPN reported the Spurs will pay Paul around $11 million. The 39-year-old Paul averaged 9.2 points and 6.8 assists in 58 games with the Warriors last season.

And Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is going to bring his championship experience to the Orlando Magic, a team that made a big jump this past season and now is trying to become an even stronger contender in the East.

Caldwell-Pope — a two-time champion guard — was finalizing a three-year, $66 million deal with the Magic, a person with knowledge of the decision said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to AP because the deal cannot be finalized until the league’s offseason moratorium is lifted on July 6.

It’s a big get for the rising Magic, who won 47 games — their most in 13 years — and got back to the playoffs this past season. Caldwell-Pope was part of title-winning teams with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 and the Denver Nuggets in 2023. He averaged 10.1 points for the Nuggets this past season while shooting nearly 41% from 3-point range.

In other moves Sunday:

— Kevin Love was completing a new two-year contract with the Miami Heat worth about $8 million, a person with knowledge of that deal told AP, the move coming one day after he did not opt into what would have been a $4 million contract for this coming season with the club. Love had said repeatedly last season that he has no intentions of leaving Miami.

— Andre Drummond agreed to a two-year contract worth about $10 million (the second year as an option) to join the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that he appeared in 49 games for during the 2021-22 season. Drummond spent the last two seasons in Chicago — he averaged 8.4 points and 9.0 rebounds this past season in only 17 minutes per game — and would be valuable insurance alongside Joel Embiid in the 76ers’ big-man rotation. “I’m in the mood for a Philly cheesesteak,” Drummond posted on social media.

— Obi Toppin is being rewarded nicely for his strong first season with Indiana. A person with knowledge of the agreement said he and the Pacers were finalizing a four-year deal worth nearly $60 million. Toppin averaged a career-best 10.3 points last season, his first with Indiana after three years in New York.

— Promising wing Max Christie is returning to the Los Angeles Lakers with a four-year, $32 million contract, a person with knowledge of the deal told AP. The 21-year-old Christie averaged 3.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists during his first two NBA seasons.

— The NBA set the salary cap at at $140.588 million for the 2024-25 season, down slightly — about $400,000 or so — from what teams had been told to expect. The tax level was set at $170.814 million, the first apron level will be $178.132 million, the second apron level will be $188.931 million, the non-taxpayer mid-level is $12.822 million, the taxpayer mid-level is $5.168 million, and the room mid-level is $7.983 million.