The beginning of the Kawhi Leonard Raptors marriage hasn't been the smoothest one. We've yet to hear anything publicly from Leonard's camp, but all indications have been that he has no desire to join the "We" in "The North."
News broke that the trade was being finalized early Wednesday morning. By the afternoon, the San Antonio Spurs officially announced that its star forward, as well as shooting guard Danny Green, were being moved to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first round pick with 1-20 slot protections.
It didn't take long for some nasty rumors to come out, including one that said that Leonard would consider sitting out the season. At the very least, he was not going to the Raptors enthusiastically, and that, in all likelihood, he will sign in Los Angeles next off-season. The Lakers are reportedly confident in landing the star forward. ESPN's Zach Lowe thinks that the team could look to flip him and recoup some of what they lost in the trade before the deadline, if that becomes clear.
Outside of San Antonio, opinion on how Leonard handled this past season seems pretty split, given the fact that he was dealing with a pretty serious injury. If he is healthy and tries to sit out next year, the tide is going to turn on Leonard in a big way.
As that became clear, we're now hearing some different takes from Kawhi's side of things.
Later on yesterday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said that Kawhi Leonard is "warming" on playing for the Raptors.
That Kawhi Leonard Raptors update came during yesterday's episode of SportsCenter.
Based on the CBA, Leonard probably doesn't have a choice. A relatively new clause states that players under contract cannot "withhold services" and then become free agents the following year. From the Washington Post:
Leonard’s other stumbling block is delineated in Article XI, Section 3 of the CBA. It states that any player in the final year of his contract who withholds his services for more than 30 days after the start of the season will not accrue a year of NBA service and will be forbidden from signing with another team unless his current team releases him.
Barring injury, Kawhi's only real play here is to suit up for Toronto for a year, try and prove that he is the top five NBA player he looked to be just a few seasons ago, and then make whatever move he feels is the best after the year. Hopefully for Masai Ujiri and the Raptors, that buys them enough time.