Kawhi Leonard is undoubtedly wondering what he did to end up North of the United States border. But, could the Toronto Raptors change his mind and convince him to stay?
By: Payton Woolsey
Unless you’ve been hanging out with LeBron James poolside and missed the news; you undoubtedly know the San Antonio Spurs have traded Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round NBA draft pick. There were others involved in a package deal, but that’s how the ‘meat’ of the trade sums up.
For some reason, San Antonio is being praised as this being a good deal for their organization. DeRozan hasn’t been much in the playoffs and disappeared against Cleveland — where he actually was on the bench for a Game 3 rally that ultimately failed in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.
Trust me when I say that San Antonio is border lining on a total rebuild at this point. There are reports that Kawhi has expressed, via his camp, his lack of desire to play for the Raptors, and that ultimately the Spurs gave zero qualms about his desires. This was simply more reason for Kawhi to despise the team he won NBA Finals MVP and shut down LeBron James for.
Coach Popovich is even throwing (subtle) shade at Kawhi as he departs.
Gregg Popovich throwin shade at Kawhi Leonard ⛅️ while speaking on trade 📺 pic.twitter.com/H9P1AbaQRo
— VERSACEBOYENT (@VersaceBoyEnt2) July 18, 2018
With a guy who speaks very little, Kawhi leaves a lot to be assumed. I would imagine this relationship falling apart was undoubtedly surrounded by the handling of his ankle and quad injuries.
In times when superstars demand money before a playoff game (i.e., Le’Veon Bell, last year in the NFL), Kawhi lives very cheap and very humble. It wasn’t about money or his next contract. He’s been seen wearing Spurs practice shorts in public, and he still drives a 97′ Chevy Tahoe that he calls a ‘Gas Guzzler’ saying, “It runs, and it’s paid off.”
I’m sure his conversation with his agent went something like this.
- Agent: “What about Toronto?”
- Kawhi: “I don’t think that would work.”
- Agent: “A great fan base, young talent. You would kill it, Leonard!”
- Kawhi: “No, I don’t think my Tahoe will make it. Plus it’s cold. It doesn’t like a cold start, and that would be hard on the alternator. Plus how am I gonna get Canadian plates?”
End of discussion.
But, he’s a Raptor and here’s why he’s going to love it.
Recently Kawhi went to Vegas for a week. Well, he was going to stay a week, but it was too chaotic and left after just one night. He isn’t big on the party atmosphere.
The guy who says he wants to play in L.A. can’t handle the fast life of Vegas. He wouldn’t like it.
In comparison, Toronto has very little of that kind of riff-raff. It’s too cold for all of that. Kawhi will like that; he just doesn’t know it yet.
The fanbase for the Raptors is very loyal and they are going to love Kawhi and what his talents and hustle hast to offer. He will be adored in a whole different way. Not in a fangirl way but more of a brother to the city; talked to like just another neighbor. Why do you think Drake still resides there, the beach?
This franchise is hungry and making moves to win now; acquiring young players, a new coach, and a high energy culture.
After their recent struggles in the clutch against LeBron and the Cavs, Kawhi will be a great asset to keep a level head in crunch time.
Almost as if he wanted to be a doctor and his parents have forced him to play in the NBA. He’s the anti-Westbrook if you will. Quietly he scores when the game is close and actually matters, and loves to pass after he gets his 10th assist. The Raptor fans will eat it that sort of unselfish play up.
He also has a very unselfish group of teammates with Lowry and Og. Kawhi likes that as opposed to beating your chest every layup type-guys.
The Raptors love to move the ball around, which is undoubtedly why Kawhi really doesn’t want to play with LeBron in Los Angeles.
Give it time, folks. He’s no diva. You can take it to the bank. After Kawhi puts in a heater block in ‘Gas Guzzler’ allowing for an excellent warm start (and instant heat), he will be happy with the way this all plays out — expect him to stay in Toronto for the long run.