Nearly three weeks after getting traded to the Toronto Raptors, small forward Kawhi Leonard released a statement Thursday regarding his departure from the San Antonio Spurs.
As seen in the following tweet courtesy of Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania, Leonard thanked his fans and teammates in San Antonio, as well as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich:
The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year capped off his statement by writing, “While I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my career, I’ll always remember the city and the people of San Antonio!”
After Leonard’s desire to be traded went public, he was shipped to Toronto along with shooting guard Danny Green for All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, young center Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Haynes initially reported that Leonard wasn’t enthusiastic about the trade since he preferred to play in his hometown of Los Angeles for the new-look Lakers.
Even so, it was clear that Leonard no longer wanted to be in San Antonio after a 2017-18 season that saw him appear in just nine games because of a quad injury.
There were constant questions regarding Leonard’s status and whispers that he could have returned since the Spurs never publicly committed to shutting him down. San Antonio’s handling of the injury reportedly played a big role in Leonard’s desire to leave.
Leonard wrote, “THANK YOU Pop I’ll always be grateful for my growth under your guidance.”
When healthy, Leonard is a difference-maker who is likely among the NBA’s five best players.
He is a two-time All-Star and one-time Finals MVP who finished third in the regular-season MVP voting in 2016-17 after averaging 25.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Leonard will join a Raptors team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season with 59 wins before getting ousted in the second round of the playoffs by the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.
Playoff success has been elusive for the Raptors, but in Leonard they have a player who knows what it takes to win on the biggest stage. And of course, “LeBronto” is no longer in the conference.
Courtesy: Bleacher Report