Lori Ewing , The Canadian Press
Revealed Saturday, July 6, 2019 3:19AM EDT
Final Up to date Saturday, July 6, 2019 5:31PM EDT
TORONTO — The chortle. The load administration. The shot. The NBA championship. The parade.
It was a heck of a season, however it seems that’s all of the Toronto Raptors are going to get from Kawhi Leonard. Received and executed.
Lower than a month after main the Raptors to an historic first NBA title, with seemingly all of Canada cheering him on, the enigmatic free agent is heading residence to Los Angeles the place he’ll play alongside Paul George for the Clippers.
Leonard ended almost six days of frantic nail-biting by followers and large hypothesis across the league when he lastly determined to signal with L.A., doing so solely after the Clippers swung their deal to land George from Oklahoma Metropolis. ESPN first reported the commerce that noticed the Thunder getting Hamilton native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari from the Clippers.
Leonard’s departure marks the primary time a reigning NBA Finals MVP has modified groups earlier than the subsequent season. Leonard was additionally pursued by the Los Angeles Lakers and, after all, the Raptors.
Danny Inexperienced left Toronto on Leonard’s heels, becoming a member of the Lakers.
“We are very thankful for the year that Kawhi and Danny played with us here in Toronto, and I know the city and the entire country of Canada are grateful for everything they did to help us to win our first NBA Championship,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri stated in a press release. “On behalf of the Raptors, I say a very heartfelt thank you to Kawhi and to Danny, and we send them and their families nothing but good wishes.”
Arguably essentially the most coveted prize on this yr’s free company, Leonard reportedly agreed to a four-year US$142 million max contract.
Inexperienced signed a two-year, $30-million take care of the Lakers.
“It’s been unfortunate how things turned out for everybody, and the city of Toronto and Canada that we couldn’t run it back. Kawhi has made his decision. Seems like the announcement is out,” Inexperienced stated in a video he posted to his social media accounts. “It is time for me to make my announcement … I can be teaming up with new teammates in LA, the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Had a enjoyable time within the metropolis of Toronto … all the time have an ideal place in my coronary heart, will always remember the historic run that we had,” he added.
Raptors followers awakened Saturday to the information, ending months of hypothesis across the star. The angst had grown since free company opened final Sunday.
However whereas followers have been gutted, the temper was overwhelmingly one among appreciation for the participant who arrived final summer season within the blockbuster deal that despatched DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio.
Leonard produced top-of-the-line playoff performances in league historical past to deliver the NBA championship to Canada for the primary time. He introduced hope to a franchise that had recognized years of disappointment in ending the Raptors’ 26-year drought.
He ignited a groundswell of assist for NBA basketball in Canada that could possibly be felt from coast to coast. And he left quite a few iconic reminiscences, together with his thrilling buzzer-beater over Philly that bounced 4 occasions off the rim — arguably the one most memorable second of the post-season.
The highest 10 Twitter traits in Toronto on Saturday morning have been concerning the transfer, amongst them the hashtags: #ThankYouKawhi and #ThankYouDanny. Toronto Mayor John Tory tweeted: “Our #KawhiWatch has ended. #ThankYouKawhi for the NBA championship that you simply helped to deliver to Toronto along with your @Raptors teammates. #ThanksKawhi #WeTheNorth.”
Leonard’s sister, Miesha Slayton, posted a number of photographs on Instagram displaying her brother in a Clippers jersey.
The notoriously tight-lipped Leonard, who has nearly no social media presence, remained mum.
Leonard is an eight-year NBA veteran, three-time all-star, two-time champion, and two-time Finals MVP.
“He is the very best two-way participant within the NBA,” Ujiri stated in the course of the Finals.
His tenure in Toronto ended with a wild few days of free company that included monitoring journeys to California by the airplane owned by Raptors dad or mum firm Maple Leaf Sports activities & Leisure, and Toronto information station CP24 following a black van by helicopter that will or could not have had Leonard in it.
Billboards encouraging Leonard to remain emerged in Toronto, with indicators additionally popping up in Los Angeles calling on the star ahead to return residence.
When Leonard arrived in Toronto from the Spurs, his inevitable departure was thought of to be a foregone conclusion by many. One season in Toronto and he would bolt for residence, they believed.
However the Raptors made Leonard’s resolution a tricky one. After he missed all however 9 video games the earlier season in San Antonio with a critical quadriceps harm, he stated well being was his largest concern heading into this marketing campaign.
Toronto responded by treating the famous person, who turned 28 on Saturday, with child gloves. They made “load administration” a part of the NBA lexicon, holding him out of back-to-back video games for well being upkeep.
All of it paid off within the playoffs. He was magnificent 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.
“Final yr, lots of people have been doubting me,” Leonard stated on the post-game press convention, the goggles from the celebratory champagne bathe nonetheless on his head.
“They thought I was both faking an harm or did not need to play for a group. That was disappointing to me that that was out within the media, as a result of I love the sport of basketball.”
ESPN reported that in Friday evening’s wild wheeling and dealing, the Thunder had tried to ship Russell Westbrook and his large contract to the Raptors together with George. However the value was too steep.
And finally, the lure of residence pulled Leonard again to L.A.
Leonard averaged 26.6 factors on 49.6 per cent taking pictures, 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 eye-popping stage within the playoffs, averaging 30.5 factors, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals over 24 video games.
He posted 14 video games of 30 or extra factors. Solely Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kobe Bryant had post-seasons with extra 30-point video games — Jordan had 16 of them in 1992, Olajuwon had 16 in 1995 and Bryant had 15 in 2009.
The Raptors now face an unsure future with a roster led by 33-year-old level guard Kyle Lowry. Solely Norman Powell and OG Anunoby have contracts that reach previous subsequent season, and the Raptors may have a truckload of cap area — probably essentially the most within the league at $90 million.
“As a company, the Raptors will give attention to the long run and proceed our pursuit of a second championship,” Ujiri stated in his assertion.
No shock, the percentages of that taking place any time quickly took a nosedive with Saturday’s information. The Clippers grew to become Vegas’s favorite to win subsequent yr’s Larry O’Brien Trophy, whereas the Raptors’ odds dropped from 7-to-1 to 16-to-1.