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When the trade between the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors became official, some around the league were predicting Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t even show up to Toronto because of his reluctance to play for the team.
That didn’t end up being the case, as Leonard posed for a picture with Raptors president Masai Ujiri and even cracked a smile.
According to a report from Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, Ujiri was made aware of Leonard’s unwillingness to play for the Raptors before pulling the trigger on the trade with the Spurs. Ujiri made the deal anyway, as now that LeBron James is in the West, Toronto feels it has a great chance to get to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history with Leonard in the mix.
The Raptors had the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season and are essentially replacing DeMar DeRozan with Leonard.
Since the trade became official, the Raptors have had conversations with Leonard and his camp and talks have been positive. Ujiri and Toronto now have roughly 12 months to convince Leonard to re-sign with them. The Raptors can offer Leonard almost $50 million more than any other team in 2019, including a fifth year. Leonard, however, will have to pay more money in taxes now that he’s living in Canada.
Many around the NBA are giving the Raptors no chance to retain Leonard. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year reportedly wants to play in Los Angeles.
But according to a source close to Leonard, Leonard might fall in love with Toronto.
“Here’s what someone who knows Leonard as well as anybody told me privately: ‘He’s going to fall in love with Toronto – it’s going to happen. He’s not going to leave, I’m telling you.’ ”
It’s important to note that Zeigler, a well-respected columnist, covered Leonard in college at San Diego State University. The two have maintained a professional relationship and Leonard has always been fond of him.