There continues to be a lot of (needless) doubt around Kawhi Leonard’s feelings about the Raptors. Since Leonard is contractually obligated to be in Toronto for just one year, and he’s always played his cards close to the vest (to say the least), there has been much talk that his expressionless presence is one of surly disengagement. That is to say: Many figure he’s already gone from Toronto.
To those figures I say: Not so fast.
More Green on Kawhi's leadership: "He's talking to guys, he's leading by example, in the huddles he's chiming in, saying what he feels, saying his opinion. Before he didn't really show or tell his opinion much... He's leading vocally more than ever before."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 8, 2018
As the tweets (care of TSN’s Josh Lewenberg) above imply — actually, the tweets just outright state this — long-time Kawhi teammate Danny Green believes he’s seeing something new in Leonard so far this season. In fact, to hear Green tell it, it sounds like Leonard is downright embracing his role of top dog in Toronto. (Now, yes, I know Kyle Lowry is the one true alpha here, but Leonard definitely has the pedigree to command some dang respect.) The 2018-19 Raptors haven’t truly hit the court yet, but this certainly bodes well.
And in the bigger picture, the one that extends beyond the end of the coming season, it feels fair to ask: Would Kawhi get that chance elsewhere, the chance to be the vocal leader of a contending team, one that rules an entire conference? I continue to say: No, no he would not.
The line that jumps out here is, of course, that Leonard “feels at home.” This is obviously a third-hand feeling, one expressed from a close reading of the situation by Danny Green. But if Green is already acknowledged as a veteran’s vet, and a guy who has been as close to the whole “Kawhi situation” as anyone on Earth, why not just take his word for it?
Maybe this is just wild preseason optimism, or maybe it does indicate something else. Maybe right at the start, Kawhi is already arriving at the conclusion: Toronto is the place to be.