The Toronto Raptors took a gamble when they acquired star forward Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs, trading guard DeMar DeRozan for one year of Leonard, who will be a free agent after next season.
Leonard’s desire to play for the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers has been well-documented, but the Raptors are betting on their ability to sell him on staying in Toronto for the long haul. Despite reports that Leonard has no desire to play for the Raptors, his first meeting with head coach Nick Nurse could be a sign that Leonard is willing to be sold on the Raps.
Nurse discussed his first meeting with the star, noting he thought Leonard would be tough to talk to, but the 26-year-old was fully engaged and excited about the upcoming season.
“I sat down first and said, ‘Do you have any questions?’ and he started firing them (at me),” Nurse told TSN and The Toronto Star. “It led us to a really easy going (meeting). It was not what I was expecting. He’s very smart, very intelligent, and very engaging. It was really enjoyable.
“He lit up like a Christmas tree,” Nurse said. “He was prepared, he had a list of questions. Then when I got up he started asking me about the offense, and I told him how we built it and the things that we do, the shot spectrum, and showing him the spacing. He got out of his chair and got up at the board with me, and they had to drag us out of there in the end because they had to go do something else, but it was great.”
This seems like good news for the Raptors, but it’s also possible Leonard just is excited to get back on the court. He only played nine games for the Spurs last season amid a mysterious quadriceps injury and what apparently was a very rotten situation in San Antonio.
Toronto will be one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference this upcoming season, but it still is hard to imagine Leonard picking Toronto over LA next summer. But if Paul George — who once was considered an LA lock — can spurn the Lakers, anything is possible.
Thumbnail photo via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images