Kawhi Leonard didn’t feel like discussing his upcoming free agency after leading the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship, but he did talk about trust, relays Sam Amick of The Athletic. Leonard completed a comeback story by being named NBA Finals MVP a year after being limited to nine games because of a quad injury. That led to a messy divorce with the Spurs, whose team doctors disagreed with the diagnosis of Leonard’s personal physicians.
“Last year, a lot of people were doubting me,” Leonard said. “They thought I was either faking an injury or didn’t want to play for a team. That was disappointing to go me that that was out in the media, because I love the game of basketball. Like I always say, if we’re not playing this game, if we’re hurt, I mean you’re down. So me just going through that, and I just knew that I would have to make myself happy and no one else. And I have to trust myself. And whatever, it doesn’t matter what anybody has to say about me. I know who I am as a person, I know how I feel, and always just trust yourself. And that was my goal and my focus. And that’s why one of the things that I take on the floor.”
There has been speculation about Leonard’s next move since he was traded to Toronto last July, and Amick acknowledges that originally that’s not where he wanted to go. There’s no guarantee that leading a team to a title will make Leonard interested in a longer relationship, but he now has a bond with the city and the organization that wasn’t there before.
“You bring a championship to this country, man – not just this city, but this country and this organization – within one year, that’s legendary type stuff,” longtime teammate Danny Green said.”Regardless of what he does, he did his job.”
There’s more this morning from Toronto:
- The Raptors will give Leonard and his representatives freedom to pick whatever contract length they want, ranging from one to five years, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Leonard is eligible for a five-year deal worth $189.7MM, but there have been rumors he might want a shorter commitment. Marks speculates that he may seek a three-year pact worth $106MM with a player option after the second year, putting him back into free agency in 2022 with 10 years of service.
- Marks believes the team should wait before giving an extension to Pascal Siakam, who will be eligible this offseason. A strong contender for Most Improved Player, Siakam would have just a $7MM cap hold next summer without an extension, roughly $22MM less than the first year of a max salary. If Leonard doesn’t re-sign, Toronto projects to have $69MM to $86MM in cap space available for 2020.
- The Raptors tried to sign the recently retired Channing Frye last summer, but he opted to stay with the Cavaliers because of his familiarity with the organization and a pledge from the front office to try to contend, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.