The Raptors trade for Kawhi Leonard created an enormus storyline that will be in the back of the minds of fans for the next eleven months. Already, there has been plenty of discussion surrounding Kawhi Leonard’s impending free agency next year. Opinions varied on multiple platforms involving the most prominent NBA voices. Though the Raptors are more than prepared for him leaving, Kawhi’s decision has a direct impact on the true result of the recent trade that sent DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio. We will grow tired of the discussion as the subject projects to take over the season. We will hear about it when the team destroys the competition as elation ensues, and we will hear about it when the team is embarrassed by the Brooklyn Nets or the Atlanta Hawks.
Kawhi won’t provide much indication as he dwells in the darkness, and has others do the talking for him, so it’s extremely difficult to draw a solid conclusion to this saga.
Having said all of that, nothing stops us from asking the question. Where is he going? We won’t know today, next month, or even this year. The early indications have been that he wants to play in Los Angeles, but it’s interesting to see these so called “analysts” provide some information.
The video posted below includes some insight from former NBA player Richard Jefferson refuting the idea that Kawhi wants to play in Toronto, an idea that we still don’t know holds true. He tried to explain that Kawhi’s situation differs from Paul George’s, which is true, but his reasoning erred in saying why Kawhi asked for the trade in the first place. Paul George vocalized his intent to leave for Los Angeles way strongly than Leonard ever has, and he mentioned specifically that he wouldn’t sign with the Pacers because of dissatisfaction with the roster. The Pacers never failed Paul George or made him unhappy, he simply wanted to leave Indiana with plans to join the Lakers.
Kawhi asked for the trade because he felt the Spurs mishandled the dealings with his injury, and frustration mounted to the point where he couldn’t see himself playing there after all the drama. Did he mention that he preferred Los Angeles? Yes. Is it possible that before the trade went down someone asked whether he wanted to play in Toronto, and he said no? Of course. The bottom line is that his chief purpose to leave wasn’t so he could play in Los Angeles, it was so that he would get out of a messy situation which he had no intention of mending.
Having followed Kawhi’s career up to this point, he seems like the sort of individual who likes to be where he’s comfortable. He didn’t mind being in South Texas, playing for a small-market team far from anything resembling Los Angeles, because up to this year, he had been comfortable with the organization, and never mentioned any desire to play in Los Angeles. We’ve never seen him happier than when he won the championship in 2014 and held up his NBA Finals MVP trophy – which tells you he enjoys winning. There’s no winning with the Clippers. He could potentially win with the Lakers, but he has expressed a lack of interest in joining that team since the addition of LeBron James. Rumors about his interest to play in Philadelphia surfaced, but there’s no way he leaves Toronto for Philly – not now.
So that takes us back to Toronto. If he enjoys winning, then he arrived at the right place. This roster seems destined for plenty of winning this season. It’s essentially a three-man race in the Eastern Conference, whereas in the West, unless he joins the Warriors, he’d play for a middle-of-the-pack team vying for a playoff berth only to be eliminated in the first round and start vacation early May.
Maybe that’s what he wants, maybe he just wants to join the Clippers, put up big numbers for a team that never makes the playoffs, and be home in Los Angeles – a busy city housing a subdued soul. Or maybe he wants to play for an exemplary organization, with a winning roster in a winnable conference. He could want to stay with the organization that bet on itself, and got him out of the mess he was in, without worry as to whether or not he’d be a one-year-rental. I know where my money would be – and that’s with the Toronto Raptors.