In his first public comments since requesting a trade from the San Antonio Spurs and landing with the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard thanked the franchise with which he spent his first seven seasons, his teammates, coach Gregg Popovich and the team’s fans. He didn’t cite his reasons for wanting to leave.
Kawhi Leonard releases first statements since trade to Toronto, saying goodbye to San Antonio and the Spurs: pic.twitter.com/XxSUEwbrQ6
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 9, 2018
An open letter from Kawhi Leonard
Here is the full transcription of his open letter:
I have been going back and forth the last few weeks trying to figure out the right things to say, and it comes down to two simple words: THANK YOU!
My family and I want to say THANK YOU to the entire Spurs organization and the people and fans of San Antonio.
THANK YOU to every one of my teammates I’ve played with over my seven years in the NBA.
THANK YOU Pop I’ll always be grateful for my growth under your guidance.
THANK YOU to the fans! There is not a more passionate or dedicated fan base than what I’ve witnessed in San Antonio.
Through all the ups and downs — I’m glad there were many more ups! — I’ll never forget what we have shared and accomplished together.
While I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my career, I’ll always remember the city and the people of San Antonio!
— Kawhi Leonard
The Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan trade
Leonard was traded along with Danny Green from the Spurs to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round draft pick. This came after a season that began with a puzzling quadriceps injury devolved into a reported rift between Leonard and the organization over his medical treatment, a breakdown in communication between the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and his coach, teammates questioning the All-Star about his health, and finally a trade request.
Why did Kawhi want out of San Antonio?
We’ve heard various sourced reports about why Leonard became so unhappy that he wanted out of the organization that shepherded him from disposable mid-first-round pick to 2014 Finals MVP and arguably the best two-way player in the game. Those included third-party theories about Leonard’s uncle and an agent with little NBA experience influencing his mindset — convincing him that team doctors didn’t have his best interests at heart, that Popovich’s “Kawhi and his group” comments were divisive, that Tony Parker saying his quad injury was “100 times worse” was a dig at his toughness, and that by staying in San Antonio he couldn’t get the shoe contract or superstar treatment he deserved.
But we never heard from Leonard directly. We have now, in the form of a letter thanking the Spurs and their fans for their support, but we’re still left to wonder why he wanted to leave that support system.
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