Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have notified the Los Angeles Clippers they won’t pick up the player options in their contracts for next season, sources told ESPN on Friday. The moves, which were expected, will make them unrestricted free agents July 1. The Clippers are regarded as strong favorites to retain Griffin and Paul when they hit the open market, given their financial advantages over competing teams in trying to sign them. But the Clippers’ nagging inability to dodge injuries and reach the conference finals even once in Paul’s five seasons has given interested suitors such as San Antonio hope that he will strongly consider external interest.

And the Spurs have indeed explored the feasibility of making a free-agent run at Paul, league sources told ESPN last month. Sources said the Clippers regard the threat of San Antonio signing away Paul as a legitimate concern, even though the Spurs, at present, have virtually no salary-cap flexibility. The Clippers will enter free agency knowing they can outbid any suitor for Paul. At 32, Paul is eligible for a five-year deal worth an estimated $205 million from Clippers owner Steve Ballmer this summer, thanks in part to rule changes in the NBA’s most recent labor pact that are more favorable to stars in Paul’s age bracket. The most the Spurs can offer, by contrast, is a four-year contract worth just over $152 million.

‎The Spurs and Clippers would also naturally have the ability to engage in sign-and-trade talks if Paul were to decide he wants to continue his career in South Texas as opposed to Hollywood. Yet it should be noted that Paul, in a sign-and-trade scenario, could not get the five-year, $205 million deal; such a swap would merely allow San Antonio to clear cap space by sending assets back to the Clippers in exchange for Paul. The Griffin news was first reported by The Vertical.

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