Clippers point guard Darren Collison has decided to turn down the nearly $1.986MM player option on his contract and hit free agency this summer, a source tells Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. The move has been widely expected after a season in which Collison turned around his career, proving his worth as an ace reserve after failing as a starter the past two seasons.
The client of BDA Sports Management has a strong preference for the Clippers, though he won’t rule out signing with another team, according to Haynes. The Donald Sterling saga clouds the future of the Clippers franchise, and agents have suggested that players will avoid signing with the team this summer. However, the fiasco surrounding the banned owner’s racist comments strengthened the bond between the players in the locker room, and it’s what has Collison leaning toward returning, Haynes hears.
The 26-year-old averaged 11.4 points in a career-low 25.9 minutes per game this past season. Most of his appearances were as a bench player, but he still made 35 starts as the team compensated for injuries to Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. His 3.7 assists per game were well below his career average of 4.9, but much of that had to do with the presence of Paul, the NBA’s leader in assists per game this season. Collison shot 37.6% from behind the arc this past season, his best mark since he was a rookie in 2009/10.
The Clippers were in serious talks about a trade that would have sent him to the Knicks at the deadline, but L.A. pulled out of discussions before they bore fruit. Clippers coach and front office chief Doc Rivers spoke highly of Collison during the season, suggesting he was reluctant to give up such a reliable member of his bench.
He’ll be able to command a raise on the open market, and the capped-out Clippers only have his Non-Bird rights. The most they’ll be able to pay him without dipping into other exceptions would be 120% of his salary from this past season, which probably won’t be enough to keep him. The team has more than $66MM in commitments for next season, though that doesn’t include nearly $4MM in non-guaranteed salary on Jamal Crawford‘s salary that the Clippers will almost certainly pick up. The rise in the projected tax line to $77MM will probably allow the team to use the full $5.305MM non-taxpayer’s mid-level to re-sign Collison or chase another free agent.