What a whirlwind of a month and a half for Toronto Raptors fans. From winning a championship to losing out on re-signing the superstar that got you there (and a chance to build out a dynasty) has brought extremities of highs and lows that we have never seen in Raptorland.
Kawhi Leonard is gone. It sucks. I honestly miss refreshing my Twitter feed every 5 seconds, or tracking the MLSE private jet online. With that said, I’ve come to terms with it.
Fun guy was the best damn player to ever wear a Raptors uniform – and yet, he was nothing more than a mercenary. Accepting that for what it is makes it an easier pill to swallow. And that pill needs to be swallowed, because you better believe I am not going to let it ruin memories of the greatest moments in Raptor history.
Whether Kawhi was even considering staying, or whether he used the Raptors for leverage is irrelevant at this point. I’d like to think that there was literally nothing any team could have done to prevent Kawhi from going to LA. This is a true it’s not you, it’s me moment. He went home and frankly, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. The writing was on the wall with ‘enjoy the moment, and have fun with it’ being his catch phrase. I guess as Raptors fans, we just didn’t want to believe it. But honestly, ending his Raptors tenure with a mock of his infamous presser laugh was a full circle moment that now feels like a fitting end to a season that might have been too perfect to even deserve an encore.
Kawhi deserves a big thank you and standing ovation when he returns. There’s no questions asked. He exceeded all expectations and played basketball at a level that Toronto has never seen. He fought through some serious injuries in the playoffs and did everything Raptors fans possibly could have wanted. The Larry OB is in Toronto until next June. So Kawhi, for that, thank you very much.
With that being said, Kawhi was put in an unbelievable situation. He could not have asked for a better supporting cast that dominated games while he load managed, got an All-Star medical staff, and experienced unparalleled support from what is quite clearly the best fan base in the league. He was given everything he possibly required to restore his tarnished reputation and re-established himself as a true superstar, despite making it clear that he did not want to be here. And also, the Raptors were the only franchise willing to trade adequate assets for him because it was too ‘risky’ for other teams. And he got a championship out of it. So Kawhi, for that, you are welcome.
What a difference one year makes. Last year on this day, the Raptors acquired Kawhi Leonard. Now, the Toronto Raptors are world champions, and still have a pretty damn good team.
The Raptors have a lot to look forward to. This season will be about proving that going 17-5 without Kawhi was no joke. Plus, the pressure to win a championship is off. Not to say that it’s impossible to win another ‘chip – but the whole reason the Raps would want Kawhi is to win a championship. They already did that. And with all the confidence that Masai, Nick Nurse and co are projecting, there’s no reason to believe the Raptors won’t have the opportunity to do it again in the near future. So relax. While the rest of the NBA goes bonkers with insane, franchise altering movement, we get to watch the Toronto Raptors unveil a championship banner to kick off the NBA season in October.