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Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri believes in Kawhi Leonard, believes Leonard and the Raptors will prove to have a mutual respect and beneficial relationship.
“He’s happy, and from what everybody has told me he’s healthy,” Ujiri said while speaking to reporters at his Giants of Africa event. “He’s determined. He seems in the right frame of mind. … I think there’s a fire inside him and we’re all excited about that.”
Ujiri was behind the trade that brought Leonard from San Antonio to Toronto, in exchange for All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. Now, Leonard will team with regular All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry.
“Kyle is close with DeMar and he’s going to be sensitive to that,” Ujiri said. “I think that was a blow to him, (but) I think basketball-wise, Kyle is always ready. He’s training hard.”
Meanwhile, Leonard has spent plenty of time with new Raptors coach Nick Nurse and his assistants, Ujiri said. He has met and trained with his new teammates in Los Angeles already. Other than that, according to Ujiri, Leonard has lived up to his reputation and mostly kept to himself.
“He’s just quiet,” Ujiri said. “We cannot all be the same kind of people. His concentration is basketball, which is what you want. He’s a basketball junkie.”
Leonard, 27, appeared in just nine games last season following a mysterious quad injury. He averaged career-highs of 25.5 points and 3.5 assists in 74 games the season before last, as well as 5.8 rebounds.
The Raptors open training camp Sept. 25.