While it seemed incredibly unlikely for Kawhi Leonard to not report to Toronto after having been traded there by the San Antonio Spurs, it did feel like there was a slight chance — however infinitesimally small — it could happen that way. Toronto is not quite the prime destination for free agents and top line players. The situation here is far better than it was, but still — it’s not the best.
On top of all that, listening to the chatter after the Raptors pulled the trigger on the deal, sending DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first round pick to the Spurs for Leonard and Danny Green, made it sound like Masai Ujiri had acquired Bigfoot.
No one had seen Kawhi. No one had talked to him. There was mention of his Uncle Dennis, his agent, perhaps a sundry collection of others, but the Spurs were not letting the Raptors talk to any of them directly prior to the deal. That’s how it sounded anyway. Ujiri spoke today about how everything went down — after having just arrived back in Toronto by way of Africa — and while it sounds like there’s still work to be done: the Raptors organization is, as expected, happy. They got a top five player, and even if it’s only for a year, it’s a huge deal.
But now we can quell the fears for real. Now we have proof that our small fears, the voice in the back of our collective heads, the one that’s been stewing there ever since Alonzo Mourning said, eh, you know what, I’m actually not coming to Canada, back in 2004, are all for naught. We’ve been shook here in Toronto ever since — but those feelings end today.
Lo and behold, I present to you: Kawhi Leonard in Toronto.
Welcome to the North pic.twitter.com/FWy6huVI9l— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 20, 2018
And folks, lest you think this is just some Weekend at Bernie’s situation, with the Raptors carting Kawhi into the team’s practice facility like a reluctant piece of dead weight, I give you Exhibit B:
THAT IS A SMILE cc: @RaptorsHQ— SB Nation (@SBNation) July 20, 2018
( : @Raptors) pic.twitter.com/m97TGtdoNA
Read the caption there (thanks SB Nation!) and then look closer.
Is that.... could it be......?
Kawhi Leonard is smiling.