Kawhi Leonard is officially a Clipper, and the Raptors are feeling a way about it, per SportsGossip.
NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard left Toronto in free agency, though, signing a three-year max contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Leonard was believed to be considering the Clippers, Lakers and Raptors in free agency, though a new report reveals otherwise.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports that, while Toronto is gracious for everything Leonard did, some are “privately upset” with his free agency, as they believe he used the Raptors as “leverage.”
Via The Athletic:
“Privately, of course he’s upset. Most in the Raptors’ organization are, at least to some degree. This is not some shocking revelation, as they are, after all, human. Several sources confirmed this to The Athletic (the hurt feelings part). While they never felt misled, they did believe Leonard used them as leverage in free agency.
There will be no public airing of sour grapes — that’s a no-no in the NBA since Cavs chairman Dan Gilbert went postal after LeBron left the first time in 2010.
The Raptors will be gracious and appreciative in public, they want to be a destination for future free agents, after all, but they are looking at a rebuild more so than a title defense, and they barely got to celebrate. Many are still processing it all.”
A Yahoo! Sports report, however, states that Leonard would’ve gone to the Lakers if the Clippers couldn’t swing a trade for another star.
You can’t blame Kawhi for using whatever leverage he had to make the best basketball decision for him. He preferred playing in LA and Toronto was viewed as a stopgap by many between his time in San Antonio and his desire to play in Los Angeles.
As far as Toronto feeling spurned, that’s the nature of free agency. This is why we see teams like the Pelicans recently trading AD, or the Nuggets trading a disgruntled Melo to the Knicks many years ago. The recent wave has been to trade a superstar to get some value before losing them altogether. The Raptors still have a very good team and the East is wide open for them to defend their crown.
It will be interesting what kind of reception Kawhi gets when he plays in Toronto next season. He did deliver a championship to the city, making the Raptors gamble for him pay off last season. Then again, we’ll see if there are still some hard feelings within the organization and possibly the fans.
Flip the page for Kawhi’s highlights during the 2019 playoffs, as well as him at the Clippers press conference, along with Paul George.