Kawhi Leonard appears to have narrowed his decision down to three teams, but one report says rumblings that the Los Angeles Lakers are the frontrunner are inaccurate.
Cris Carter of FOX Sports 1, who has claimed to have sources connected to Leonard dating back to before the San Antonio Spurs traded the three-time All-Star, reported on Tuesday that Leonard has not yet made a decision. He also said it is wrong to think the Lakers have the edge over the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers.
Leonard’s announcement is not expected to come until later in the week, so it wouldn’t make much sense for him to wait if he had already made up his mind. There were several reports that he wanted to play for the Lakers before they signed LeBron James last summer, and perhaps he is weighing that desire against the idea of being teammates with LeBron.
If the questions Leonard asked Magic Johnson are any indication, the Lakers are certainly in the hunt. However, signing with the Clippers would give Leonard an opportunity to be the clear-cut No. 1 while still playing in LA. And the Raptors, of course, are already his team and would be the favorites in the Eastern Conference if Leonard re-signed. You can understand why the decision is a difficult one.
NBA veteran Lou Williams shared some interesting insight about why it’s difficult for the Toronto Raptors to keep players.
The Raptors just won their first championship in franchise history and are trying to convince Kawhi Leonard to remain with them rather than sign elsewhere. Williams, a three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner, played for the Raptors in the 2014-2015 season. During an appearance on “The No Chill Podcast” with Gilbert Arenas and Mike Botticello, Williams provided some excellent insight about American players in Toronto.
“Once you’re there, you’ll love playing for the Raptors, you’ll love playing for the country. But that fourth, fifth month into the season, you’re like ‘goddamn, I want to go home,'” Williams said.
“Because when you play in Toronto, you feel like you’re playing overseas. We can’t wait to go on the road sometimes, just to be in America. It’s like little s— you don’t think of. Channels on your TV, phone bill, you got to get a Canadian bank account. S— like that that people don’t think about. That s— is hard. And if you have kids, you’re raising your kids in Canada.
“One you’re there, you’re like ‘oh, this is dope.’ But the hard part is keeping guys.”
Williams played just the one season for the Raptors, winning his first Sixth Man of the Year award that season. They didn’t offer him a contract to return, and he signed a 3-year, $21 million deal with the Lakers instead.
As for Leonard, he’s believed to be deciding between the Raptors and Clippers, though the Lakers reportedly think they have a chance too.
Below is a clip of Williams’ comments, but beware of the curse words.
Kawhi Leonard is set to officially decline his player option to become a free agent, and the Toronto Raptors may have done enough to convince him to stay.
According to Chris B. Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Leonard will officially decline his player option, as expected. However, sources told Haynes that Leonard is “seriously considering” re-signing with Toronto despite widespread interest from elsewhere.
The Raptors have one major advantage, as they are the only team that can offer Leonard a five year, $190 million supermax contract. He also had a year to get familiar with the city and won an NBA title as the team’s unquestioned leader, adding another Finals MVP trophy to his cabinet.
The belief has been that Leonard would like to return to his native California, likely with the Los Angeles Clippers. However, they may not be the favorite after all after his wildly successful year in Canada.
It’s not clear if the Toronto Raptors would get a White House invitation no matter what, and it’s even less clear if the team would accept it given the controversial nature of President Donald Trump.
It’s customary for the White House to invite champions of the four major sports teams to a visit at the White House, and the bulk of Toronto’s roster is American-born. However, the precedent is mixed, as the Raptors are the first Canadian team to win a title since 1993, and the Toronto Blue Jays are the only Canadian team to get a visit after winning the 1992 World Series.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse seemed to indicate that a presidential visit may not be in the cards, suggesting that the team is already planning to visit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but has yet to hear from the White House.
The Golden State Warriors didn’t visit the White House either, mostly because President Trump didn’t want them there over their criticism of him and his policies. It’s doubtful that the Raptors would even be interested in a visit, and it seems off the table anyway.
There are sure to be more than a handful of teams that try to sign Kawhi Leonard when the NBA Finals MVP becomes a free agent this summer, but the sweepstakes may already been down to just two.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on “Get Up” Tuesday morning that the Los Angeles Lakers have very little chance of signing Leonard, both because of their financial situation and because Leonard does not want to be the third guy behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Rather, Wojnarowski notes that Leonard is “focused” on the Clippers, and he will likely choose between them and the Toronto Raptors.
“The Clippers are poised to be able to lure him away from Toronto,” Wojnarowski said. “This will be a Raptors-Clippers fight down the end. He may take meetings with more teams, but it’s not certain he’d even take a meeting with the Lakers right now.”
The Raptors held their championship parade on Monday, and even one of Leonard’s teammates did everything he could to have the fans pressure Kawhi into staying. It was initially believed that Toronto would only be getting Leonard as a one-year rental after they acquired him in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs, but winning a championship may have changed that. Leonard’s reported lack of interest in playing for the Lakers may explain why they are said to be targeting a different top free agent after trading for Davis.
The Toronto Raptors managed to claim an NBA championship without a single lottery pick on the roster, the first team to do so in the lottery era. To one team president, that’s an indictment of every other NBA general manager.
Orlando Magic president Jeff Weltman said Monday that the Raptors’ lottery-free title is a sign that he and his fellow GMs “need to do a better job” at identifying talent in the NBA Draft.
It may be a touch unfair. The Raptors used former lottery picks DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas to acquire Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol, respectively. It also may prove something of a fluke — the league’s best players still overwhelmingly go in the lottery and are almost always a key component of a championship team. Sure, there are always hidden gems in the draft, but as this year has shown us, the lottery still rules the league.
The Golden State Warriors pulled off a classy gesture in congratulating the Toronto Raptors on their NBA championship.
The Warriors took out a full page ad in Monday’s Toronto Star, offering their congratulations on the Raptors’ accomplishment.
The fact that the Warriors did this on the Raptors’ parade day is probably no coincidence, either. It’s a neat thing to do and a fine gesture from an organization that clearly has legitimate respect for the team that dethroned their dynasty. It’s also a sign that the Warriors are happy to move on from some of the fan-related controversies that popped up during the Finals.
Toronto Raptors fans proved during the team’s championship run that they are arguably the most passionate in the NBA, but there are still some of them who can’t tell the real Kawhi Leonard from an impostor.
Before and during the Raptors’ championship parade celebration in Toronto on Monday, a man wearing a Leonard jersey and pretending to be the NBA Finals MVP went around posing for photos and signing autographs for fans. While a lot of people knew it wasn’t the real Kawhi, some clearly had no idea.
Fans may have had a tough time identifying Leonard with the way his personality seemed to change after the NBA Finals, but we can assure you he is about a head taller than fake Kawhi. He was also on a championship float rolling through the streets, not walking around by himself. But, hey, when your team wins its first title in franchise history, even fake star players get to feel the love.
The Toronto Raptors won their first ever championship this year, but Kyle Lowry wants to make sure fans don’t forget some of the players that put the franchise on the map prior to the title run.
The Raptors held their highly anticipated championship parade on Monday, and Kyle Lowry wore a throwback Damon Stoudamire jersey for it.
Stoudamire, who was teammates with Lowry for a brief time with the Memphis Grizzlies, was Toronto’s starting point from when the franchise was founded in 1995 to 1998. He was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in his first season and averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 assists per game in two-plus seasons with the Raptors before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Most of the talk surrounding the Raptors has been about Kawhi Leonard and the unique ways fans are worshipping him, and that is certainly well deserved. However, you have to admire Lowry’s tribute to the first great point guard the team ever had.
The extent to which Toronto Raptors fans are falling in love with the team continues to astound.
The Raptors are celebrating their first NBA title in franchise history with a championship parade on Monday. As of Sunday, fans had already begun camping out for it, as video from Sportsnet’s Faizal Khamisa showed.
Toronto is already preparing for 1.5-2 million fans to attend the championship parade and is looking forward to the greatest party the city has ever seen.
The Raptors were setting TV records throughout their championship run, which culminated with Game 6 of the NBA Finals drawing a staggering 82 share in the Toronto market.