The Toronto Raptors have been the epitome of a class act after former superstar Kawhi Leonard bolted during free agency to return to his hometown of Los Angeles to sign with the Clippers. Raptors president Masai Ujiri said this in a public statement: “We got a great deal out of this — we won a championship, so we’re happy.”
While he also said he was not “disappointed” by Leonard’s departure, there are rumblings around the franchise that they do believe he used them as leverage in free agency, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
“Privately, of course he’s upset. Most in the Raptors’ organization are, at least to some degree. This is not some shocking revelation, as they are, after all, human. Several sources confirmed this to The Athletic (the hurt feelings part). While they never felt misled, they did believe Leonard used them as leverage in free agency.
There will be no public airing of sour grapes — that’s a no-no in the NBA since Cavs chairman Dan Gilbert went postal after LeBron left the first time in 2010.
The Raptors will be gracious and appreciative in public, they want to be a destination for future free agents, after all, but they are looking at a rebuild more so than a title defense, and they barely got to celebrate. Many are still processing it all.”
Toronto was the final team to meet with Kawhi Leonard, but as it turns out, the LA Clippers were calling him two-to-three times a day, checking up on him to do whatever they could to tune into his goals.
The Clippers knew their only shot would come in the form of getting another star on the team, otherwise, Leonard would either go back to Toronto or head to the Lakers.
Kawhi even admitted on Wednesday he was “very close” to signing with one of the other two teams but they sold him on the idea of playing with Paul George.
“I was very close. Real close,” Leonard said. “But when (the Clippers) presented the opportunity of playing with Paul it was easy, it was a yes. I said let’s get it going.”
“This is probably going to be my first time playing with an elite player on his level around the same age as me, same talent,” Leonard said. “I’m excited.”