Kawhi Leonard isn’t the first player to force a trade. Kyrie Irving did it just last year, heading from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Boston Celtics. Paul George informed the Pacers that he would not be re-signing there last off-season, and the team dealt him to the Thunder.
The way Leonard has gone about it, after sitting out for much of last year, rubs some the wrong way. If Leonard did not feel that he was healthy, that is definitely his right.
Now, there is a rumor that he could consider sitting out for the Raptors. At minimum, there is no indication that he is particularly enthusiastic about playing in Toronto, even for a year.
After the trade, ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported that Kawhi “has no desire” to play for the Raptors:
Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018
Some aren’t taking well to these Kawhi Leonard reports, including ESPN’s Dick Vitale.
After Haynes’ tweet, New York Post writer Zach Braziller quipped about Leonard’s desire to play the game at all. Vitale responded, and seems very upset by the whole situation.
Dickie V went as far as to call Kawhi a “diva” and “spoiled.”
Starting to think he doesn’t have a desire to play basketball HEY Zach Leonard sounds like a hoops DIVA / so spoiled / give me a break as there are so many that only wish they could be @NBA stars
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) July 18, 2018
Odds are that Leonard will play out the string. The Raptors can only hope that they can pull off the same thing that the Thunder did with George this past season.
After the majority of the NBA world assumed that PG would be off to the Los Angeles Lakers after a year stopover in Oklahoma City, he re-upped with the Thunder for the long term.
That seems unlikely to repeat itself here. Still, Kawhi would do well to at least model this one year after what George did in 2017-18, and play hard in anticipation of hitting free agency. With his injury concerns, doing anything less feels like a huge mistake.