The Los Angeles Clippers’ visit to Toronto on Wednesday was the occasion to give Kawhi Leonard his 2019 championship ring, and it’s safe to say that there are no hard feelings from Raptor fans.
Leonard was greeted with a standing ovation and “MVP” chants after a tribute video was shown. He greeted all of the remaining coaches and teammates he played with last season before being handed his ring by Kyle Lowry.
What a moment as Kawhi Leonard receives his ring in Toronto.
These ring ceremonies can be strange affairs when the receiving player is no longer on the team. Depending on the manner of departure, the fan reception can be awkward. That was not the case here. Toronto fans hold no ill will toward Leonard for leaving, and remember him as the man who helped deliver the Raptors’ first NBA title. The feeling appears to be mutual, and this was a good occasion for all.
Ivica Zubac may have spoiled some significant Los Angeles Clippers injury news Wednesday.
With the status of forward Kawhi Leonard still up in the air, Zubac essentially revealed after the team’s shootaround that the plan was for Leonard and Paul George to finally play together on Wednesday.
Ivica Zubac hinted that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will make their debut together today: "Finally. It'll be great. We're really good with only Kawhi. We're really good with only PG. You put them two together, it's gotta be good. We'll see it tonight. But I'm really excited."
Leonard hasn’t played since Nov. 13 as he battles a knee issue. That came at a bad time, as George recovered from shoulder issues to make his Clippers debut the next night. That means the two just haven’t quite been healthy at the same time.
Toronto Raptors swingman OG Anunoby told reporters on Friday that he received an apology from former teammate Kawhi Leonard, who accidentally poked him in the eye during Monday’s loss to the LA Clippers.
The poke happened in the opening minutes of the contest, and knocked Anunoby out for the rest of it with an eye contusion. He missed Wednesday’s game against Portland too but is expected back for Saturday against Dallas.
Kawhi quickly gives up the ball to run back and check up on OG Anunoby after he inadvertently injured him with a poke to the eye pic.twitter.com/M1RsVqa4dO
Kawhi Leonard is known for being one of the most “boring” players in the NBA, but his even-keeled personality has served him well throughout his career. If you expected to see a big change in him when the Los Angeles Clippers faced his former team, you would have been wrong.
Leading up to Monday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was asked by a reporter if he had noticed anything different about Leonard’s “demeanor” this week. Doc’s response was hilarious.
Reporter: “Have you noticed a change in Kawhi’s demeanor around this game?”
Doc: “Have you ever noticed a change in his demeanor?”
Leonard scored 12 points to go along with 11 rebounds, nine assists and three steals in his team’s 98-88 win, and he probably felt no different about the performance than he did when he was dominating the postseason last year en route to a title. The most emotion you’ll ever see from Kawhi was when he shared his big celebration plans following the NBA Finals.
Some confuse Leonard’s lack of visual emotion with indifference, but that is clearly not the case. He’s a competitor who is capable of taking over a game at any moment. Showcasing his feelings has just never been his thing, so it’s no surprise Monday night’s showdown with his former team was no different.
The NBA announced on Thursday that they have fined the LA Clippers $50,000 over Doc Rivers’ comments on the the Kawhi Leonard situation.
Leonard did not play in a nationally-televised game on ESPN Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks due to his ongoing “load management” plan.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday that Kawhi “feels great,” which led to further anger from fans who had paid to watch the great matchup and ended up seeing a Clippers team without their best player.
Doc on Kawhi "He feels great. But he feels great because of what we've been doing… We're just going to continue to do it. There's no concern here. But we want to make sure. I think Kawhi made a statement that he's never felt better. It's our job to make sure he stays that way."
Adam Silver has established himself as a player-friendly commissioner who supports the players’ desires to keep their bodies in optimal conditions, even if that means missing games. What they don’t want is the perception that players are missing games for no reason, which is why they fined the Clippers. Rivers’ comments make the league and team look worse for the suggestion that they are sitting a healthy player.
Kawhi Leonard will sit out his second game of the season on Wednesday night as part of his load management plan, and he and the Los Angeles Clippers are facing some criticism since their game against the Milwaukee Bucks will be nationally televised. However, the NBA says they are not violating any rules.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Wednesday that Leonard is “not a healthy player under the league’s resting policy,” as the Clippers have listed him with a knee injury on their injury report. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski notes that the Clippers have worked closely with the NBA and provided the necessary medical information.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass on Kawhi Leonard: "Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league's resting policy, and, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the LA Clippers injury report. The league office, in consultation with the NBA's director of sports medicine.."
Leonard is missing his second straight back-to-back game tonight vs. Bucks — which happened to also be a national TV game. He sat back-to-back last week against Jazz on national TV. Clippers have worked closely with NBA, sharing required medical information on Leonard's knee.
Teams resting star players for nationally televised games has been a controversial topic for a few years now. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich popularized the tactic as a way of keeping his star players fresh for the postseason, and the NBA has since tried to discourage teams from engaging in the practice. There was a report last year that the league threatened to hit the New Orleans Pelicans with a massive fine for the way they were handling Anthony Davis’ playing time, but Bass denied that at the time.
While it would appear the Clippers have taken all the necessary steps to rest Leonard “legally,” Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype reports that people in NBA circles still consider it an issue. One possible solution that has been proposed is to avoid having the first or second game of a back-to-back on national television, that way it will be less likely that a team is going to rest its star players.
Leonard’s relationship with the Spurs went up in flames because of the way his quad injury was handled, and he credited the Toronto Raptors’ load management plan for helping him dominate in the playoffs last year. The Clippers are aiming for the same result, so they’re going to do everything they can to stick to Leonard’s preferred plan.
“What it do baby” is, of course, a meme that came about after the Toronto Raptors won an NBA title. There’s no evidence of Leonard saying “city views over interviews” anywhere, or what it could mean. Perhaps it’s a reference to his notorious shyness with the media.
Whatever the case, Leonard is being aggressive with his trademarks. Seems he’s keen to avoid any further business issues after the whole logo situation.
Kawhi Leonard faced a harsh realization on Tuesday night that Los Angeles is very much a Lakers town before anything else.
Leonard spoke to the fans attending Tuesday’s opener between the Lakers and Clippers at Staples Center that was considered a home game for the Clippers (the two teams share a home arena). As Leonard spoke, he was booed by many of the Lakers fans in attendance.
Lakers fans are mostly upset because Leonard chose to sign with the Clippers over them. The Lakers are used to being the team in town and getting the coveted free agents, so losing one to the Clippers is a major culture shock.
Kawhi Leonard’s return to Canada will take place even earlier than expected.
LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said on Thursday that the star forward is scheduled to play in the team’s game in Vancouver next week, their final one of the preseason. The game will mark Leonard’s first back in Canada since leading the Toronto Raptors to the NBA title and subsequently leaving.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP made his preseason debut with the Clippers on Thursday, recording seven points and six assists in 11 minutes as the team fell to the Denver Nuggets by the final of 111-91.
While Vancouver is far away from Toronto, Leonard should still get a fairly warm reception from the Canadian fans when he makes his grand return, though it may not be a complete hero’s welcome.