Kawhi Made It Clear From The Start That He Was Always Planning To Leave Toronto
Kawhi Leonard had his heart set on LA, and not even a championship could change that.
Kawhi Leonard came, saw and conquered the NBA this year with the Toronto Raptors, bringing the title north of the border for the first time ever. It was a beautiful and unexpected detour on his road to playing back home in Los Angeles. Kawhi Leonard did something special and historic during his one year in Toronto. However, in the end, Leonard has always made it clear that LA was his next destination.
When Leonard had his falling out with the San Antonio Spurs, it was reported that he had gone to management and asked to be traded. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard made it known in June 2018 that Los Angeles was his preferred destination, but said that he'd choose the Lakers over the Clippers.
At the time, there were a few teams in the mix that could've potentially traded for Leonard and the Raptors were one of them. In July, the unthinkable happened when the Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
As exciting as this was for the city of Toronto and Raptors fans, news got out that Kawhi had no intention of playing in Toronto. Sean Deveney of The Sporting News had reported that Leonard had no interest in playing for the Raptors and that he might sit out the whole year if necessary.
As we all know, that wasn't the case as Leonard laced up this year and helped the Raptors win their first NBA championship in franchise history.
Does winning it all mean that Leonard was meant to stay in Toronto? No. Leonard's first course of action after celebrating his championship win was to set up two meetings - one with the Lakers and one with the Clippers. An obvious sign of his intention to leave Toronto and head to the destination of his choice.
Leonard was also in talks with his soon-to-be teammate Paul George about making a move to play in LA together. Let's not forget that George is also a Los Angeles native who wanted to play at home.
In his meeting with the Clippers, Leonard made it clear to the organization that he wanted to play with Paul George and if the Clippers really wanted Leonard, they would do anything in their power to make that happen. Sources say that Leonard told Clippers ownership, "Get PG and im coming."
Everything Leonard said and did, from the start of the season to the end, made it clear that his move to Los Angeles was inevitable. There was only one element that had the potential to keep Leonard in Toronto and it presented itself in the form of a huge trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. No one knows the full extent of the asking price, but according to Adrian Wojnarowski, it went along the lines of the Raptors giving up Pascal Siakam and at least 4 first-round draft picks for Paul George and Russell Westbrook.
Whether the talks fell through, never gained traction or the Thunder simply used this "offer" to get more out of the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard got his wish. He's officially heading back home to LA.
Let's face the facts - Leonard was a one-year rental and a last-ditch effort at winning a championship and it paid off. Raptors fans should just smile and be grateful that Leonard was able to help the Raptors achieve what they never could before.