The moment Kawhi Leonard requested a trade, he was linked to the Los Angeles Lakers. Even before then, we heard reports of him wanting to play for his hometown team when he becomes a free agent in 2019, and now that he’s been dealt to the Toronto Raptors, those rumors still have not subsided.
The Raptors took a considerable risk, trading beloved face-of-the-franchise DeMar DeRozan and a pair of foundational building blocks to the San Antonio Spurs for the final year of Leonard’s contract, and that understandably has Toronto on edge about the possibility of losing another star player in a year.
So it was that TSN Radio 1050 Toronto hosts Bryan Hayes and Steve Simmons had San Antonio Express-News beat reporter Jabari Young on to potentially calm their fears. Asked directly if he thought the Raptors had a shot to re-sign Leonard, Young said, “I think they do.” He then added:
“Based off of me talking to people within his circle, they’re going to go into this thing with an open mind and give this thing every last opportunity to work. And at the end of the day, if that’s the case, it would be great if he stays. Obviously, I think part of his mind, yes, let’s keep it real: I think he still feels like L.A. might be the destination, but the same time, he plans to go into this thing with an open mind, giving it every single shot in the world to make it work.”
The Raptors certainly believe they can retain Leonard
This must be encouraging news not only to Toronto fans, but also the Raptors, who have put their faith in re-signing Leonard in the hands of Masai Ujiri. The persuasive general manager believes he can sell Leonard on Toronto as a city that can foster a superstar and the Raptors as a team that can help him compete for titles. Hiring Leonard’s close friend, Jeremy Castleberry, can’t hurt, either.
The Raptors are certainly selling their fans on the idea of Leonard warming to Toronto, considering newly hired head coach Nick Nurse told The Star that the normally reserved two-time Defensive Player of the Year “lit up like a Christmas tree” in their first meeting to discuss his role on the team.
Of course, Leonard also told San Antonio he would stay
Keep in mind, Leonard also requested a trade from the Spurs three months after telling reporters he “for sure” wanted to finish his career in San Antonio. Even if he is still fixated on the Lakers, as reports have indicated, it would serve Leonard and his people well to let the Raptors believe they have a shot to re-sign him, because the alternative is to suffer through the same drama he just endured over the past year in San Antonio. You can always say you have an open mind even if you don’t have one.
Really, we’re right back where we started, with rational basketball fans believing Leonard will stay in Toronto when they see it, especially after he’s made it clear over the past year he prefers Los Angeles.
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