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Kawhi Leonard bolts champion Raptors for Clippers: reports

It was a heck of a season, however it seems that’s all of the Toronto Raptors are going to get from Kawhi Leonard.

Lower than a month after main the Raptors to their first NBA title, the famous person free agent is reportedly leaving Toronto for the Los Angeles Clippers.

A individual accustomed to the negotiations says the Clippers can be touchdown Leonard as a free agent after they purchase Paul George from the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder in a large commerce for gamers and draft picks.

George can be traded for at the least 4 first-round picks, based on the one who spoke to The Related Press on situation of anonymity early Saturday as a result of not one of the strikes have been finalized. And Leonard made his determination to signal with the Clippers after the group swung the deal to land George, the individual mentioned.

ESPN, which first reported the commerce, additionally mentioned the Thunder have been getting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari from the Clippers.

Leonard going to the Clippers implies that for the primary time, a reigning NBA Finals MVP can be altering groups earlier than the subsequent season. Leonard was additionally pursued by the Los Angeles Lakers and, after all, the Raptors.

Probably the most the Clippers can provide Leonard is $142 million US over 4 years, which is the deal he’s anticipated to signal. Gamers can signal with new groups as early as midday Jap on Saturday.

Leonard coveted

Leonard was arguably probably the most coveted prize on this yr’s free company, and met with a number of groups together with the Raptors, Lakers and Clippers in his hometown of Los Angeles.

The Lakers did not wait lengthy earlier than beginning to transfer on from their quest for Leonard. Danny Inexperienced introduced that he’s signing a two-year take care of the Lakers, which means he, too, is leaving Toronto.

“Kawhi has made his decision. Seems like the announcement is out,” Inexperienced mentioned in a video he posted to his social media accounts. “It’s time for me to make my announcement … I will be teaming up with new teammates in LA, the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Inexperienced mentioned he loved Toronto and that it was unlucky how free company turned out for that metropolis, the Raptors and for Canada.

The information ends months of hypothesis and angst for Raptors followers.

Kawhi Leonard bolts champion Raptors for Clippers: reports 1
Kawhi Leonard, pictured right here celebrating the Raptors’ first NBA title of their 24-year historical past, is leaving after one season in Toronto. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Photographs)

Leonard’s departure was thought of by many to be a foregone conclusion a yr in the past when Raptors president Masai Ujiri acquired him from the San Antonio Spurs in an low season blockbuster that despatched beloved franchise icon DeMar DeRozan to Texas.

Leonard had a yr left on his contract plus a participant possibility — which he was actually going to say no — when he moved to Toronto, and lots of believed he’d put in a season in Canada earlier than bolting for his hometown of Los Angeles.

Nonetheless, Ujiri hit the jackpot together with his calculated gamble to commerce his greatest scorer, DeRozan, for Leonard coming off a franchise-record 59-win season, and the Raptors actually made Leonard’s determination a troublesome one. After Leonard missed all however 9 video games final season with San Antonio with a critical quadriceps damage, he mentioned well being was his greatest concern heading into this previous marketing campaign.

‘Load administration’

Toronto responded by treating the famous person, who turned 28 on Saturday, with child gloves. They made “load management” a part of their lexicon, holding him out of back-to-back video games for well being upkeep.

The additional relaxation was useful as Leonard averaged career-bests of 26.6 factors and seven.Three rebounds within the common season.

However Leonard’s load administration made its greatest affect within the playoffs. Leonard had probably the greatest performances in NBA post-season historical past in main the Raptors to their first Larry O’Brien Trophy.

He averaged 28.5 factors in a six-game finals victory over the Golden State Warriors. He scored 732 factors within the playoffs — solely Michael Jordan (759) and LeBron James (748) have had extra in a single post-season — and 14 instances reached 30 factors throughout the Raptors’ title run.

He was additionally wonderful on either side of the ball as they dispatched Orlando, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and eventually the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. He was rewarded together with his second profession Finals MVP award.

There have been iconic moments alongside the way in which, together with his series-winning remaining shot in Sport 7 in opposition to the 76ers that bounced on the rim 4 instances earlier than falling, sending the Scotiabank Area crowd right into a frenzy.

WATCH | Leonard’s ridiculous buzzer beater sends Raptors to East remaining:

Kawhi Leonard poured in 41 factors, together with a dramatic game-winner because the Toronto Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers 92-90 to advance to the Jap Convention Finals. 1:23

Leonard’s standing as a sports activities icon in Toronto and throughout Canada maybe closed the hole between the Raptors and different suitors.

“He’s earned the right to think about this and we’ll respect it,” Raptors common supervisor Bobby Webster informed reporters in late June. “Obviously, we’d love to have him back but this is his decision and it’s a big one for him.”

However finally, what Toronto needed to provide wasn’t sufficient.

Leonard averaged 26.6 factors on 49.6 per cent capturing, 7.Three rebounds, 3.Three assists and 1.eight steals over 60 regular-season video games with the Raptors in 2018-19. He took his recreation to an elite degree within the playoffs, averaging 30.5 factors, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals over 24 video games.

It is a huge blow to Toronto’s possibilities of back-to-back titles, and clearly places a damper on the Lakers’ low season quest as nicely — despite the fact that they are going to finalize a commerce Saturday to usher in Anthony Davis from New Orleans and landed the type of shooter than LeBron James craves by including Inexperienced.

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