According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski the Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a trade and will send Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors while DeMar DeRozan will be heading to the Spurs.
Outside of LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, this is the biggest news to come out of the NBA off-season so far. Leonard gets the fresh start he was searching for while the Raptors get to shake up the roster that has become stagnant in the playoffs the last several years.
One thing that is uncertain about Leonard is his current health and his health going forward. Leonard was held to nine games the past season as he dealt with lingering health issues despite being cleared by team doctors.
The injury concerns date all the way back to the 2017 Western Conference Finals with the Spurs having a huge lead in Game 1 against the Warriors on the road. Leonard was forced out of the game in third quarter after landing awkwardly on Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, in what some have perceived to be a dirty play.
Fast forward to earlier this month and ESPN reported Leonard hid from the Spurs after the team tried to visit him in New York, where he was rehabbing from his injury. Here’s a quote from the podcast, via USA Today.
“There was a point during his rehab process in New York that some of the Spurs brass went out to see him in New York. As soon as those guys arrived to the building, Kawhi’s people grabbed him and sequestered him to another part of the building. And so the Spurs’ people couldn’t even see him. These are the types of things that are going on that people don’t necessarily know about.”
As far as the general public knows, Leonard is completely healthy and ready to play. Leonard did not want to be a member of the Spurs and it sounds like he doesn’t want to play with the Raptors either.
ESPN reports Leonard has “no desire” to play in Toronto so it’ll be interesting to see how this trade plays out. Leonard has spoken on his desire to play in Los Angeles so a trade to Toronto represents pretty much the furthest thing from the LA sun.
The Spurs have medically cleared Leonard to play and coach Gregg Popovich has put the decision to come back on Leonard himself. It sounds more like health was never the issue but instead a growing rift between Leonard and the team. It looks like that rift has reached its conclusion as Leonard will now look to start fresh with the Raptors.
Even Leonard’s teammates have taken not-so-subtle shots at Leonard, with Tony Parker saying his injury was the same as Leonard’s but a “hundred times worse.”
“I’ve been through it, Parker said. “It was a rehab for me for eight months. Same kind of injury (as Kawhi), but mine was a hundred times worse. But the same kind of injury. You just stay positive.”
With Leonard speaking about what teams he wanted to end up with, you can all but expect Leonard to suit up for game number one of then new NBA season, as long as he’s still not with the Spurs.