Seeing how Kawhi Leonard was one of the main reasons why the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA title, pundits felt that the two-time NBA champion had little to no reason to jump to another team. Hence, it came as a bit of a shock that the 27-year-old decided to jump ship and join the Los Angeles Clippers – a team that has long been rumored to be his next stop even before the 2018-19 NBA season.
Seeing how much mileage the Raptors got from Leonard last NBA season, there was no question that Toronto would give him the best financial package moving forward. But based on various reports, it seems that the 15th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft wanted something more than what the ballclub could offer. It eventually came to a point where Raptors management allegedly questioned how serious Leonard was about staying in Toronto, revealing as well that the things that were being asked were ones not normally asked in standard contract negotiations, sources told Josh Lewenberg of TSN.
“This is the NBA and this is how it works. I always say there’s no time to go out and cry. You can’t hide under the table and cry. Honestly, I’ve lost no sleep. I’m not disappointed. It’s on to what’s next. I’m telling Raptors fans and everybody, don’t lose one day of sleep, one second of sleep. We’re going to be just fine. We’re going to be all right,” said team president Masai Ujiri.
Details on what Leonard actually requested were not mentioned although one of them was allegedly a request to bring in Paul George to Toronto. This could be tied up to that report from Adrian Wojnarowski last July 6 claiming that Oklahoma City Thunder Sam Presti was open to moving George and Russell Westbrook to Toronto although talks never really prospered.
Either way, all of this is water under the bridge. Leonard is headed to the Clippers and the Raptors are moving on without the two-time NBA Finals MVP. Toronto will defend its title next season with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka at the helm. The Raptors will be on the radar once the 2019-20 NBA season stars, assessing if they still have enough left on the squad to successfully defend their title.