The Toronto Raptors host the Los Angeles Clippers and their own former star player in Kawhi Leonard. This will be the first time Leonard has returned to Toronto since last season when he led the Raptors to their first NBA Championship.
Though the city has paid plenty of tribute to their former star, Kawhi doesn’t have high expectations as to how the fans will treat him tonight while playing for the Clippers. Leonard revealed his thoughts in an interview posted by Bleacher Report.
“I mean there will be some cheers, but definitely, I think more boos because they want to win the game. They’re not going to be cheering for a player that’s on the opposing team. They’re still rooting for the Raptors,” Leonard said.
Toronto Raptors & Kawhi Leonard
In July of 2018, Kawhi Leonard was traded from the San Antonio Spurs to the Raptors. Though Leonard only played 60 regular-season games with the team, he led them all the way to the NBA Finals and the team went on to win the title. With Leonard, Toronto won their first-ever NBA Championship. During his career with the Raptors, the Klaw averaged 26.6 points, 3.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds a game during the regular season and 30.5 points, 3.9 assists and 9.1 boards during the postseason.
This past summer, Leonard parted from the Raptors and signed a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. According to an interview posted by Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times, leaving Toronto was a difficult decision for the reigning NBA Finals MVP.
“I gave it a big consideration [resigning with Toronto]. You know, I took my time. I didn’t hurry up and make a quick decision. I talked to the front office in deep detail and it was a hard choice to make,” Leonard said.
Toronto Pays Tribute to Kawhi Leonard
Toronto still has plenty of respect for their former superstar, and have shown their appreciation ahead of Leonard’s return to the city. Yesterday, the team dropped a video tribute for him revealing the impact he made on the city.
Not only did the team drop a tribute video for Kawhi, but they also displayed a billboard last night at Yonge/Dundas thanks to New Balance/Kawhi. According to Toronto Raptors radio voice Eric Smith, this billboard was made visible upon Leonard’s return to the city last night and should still be on display for tonight’s game.
The city also put up another New Balance billboard of Kawhi Leonard in downtown Toronto that read, “Thank you Toronto.”
It has been made very clear just how big of an impact Leonard had on the city. According to Clippers reporter Jovan Buha, during today’s shootaround in Toronto, he had never seen that many fans in attendance.
Upon Leonard’s return tonight, he will be receiving his NBA Championship ring that he earned with the Raptors last season. ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk gave fans a look at what the ring will look like in a video he posted on Twitter.
Tip-off today is at 4 p.m. PST.