Kawhi Leonard had a staggering 732 points during the 2019 playoffs- only behind LeBron James’ 748 in 2018 and Michael Jordan’s 759 in 1992 for most points in an NBA post season. His influence in leading the Raptors to an NBA Championship last season needs no new debate. He might or might not look the prettiest in his play, but his effectiveness needs no new clarification- for what he has done one season with the Raptors, in itself, is a huge justification for it- not to mention his seven years in San Antonio.
This success that Kawhi Leonard got in Toronto is what might have made his short stay in Toronto more memorable. And his words for his old team ahead of the game against them on Monday night certainly gave that feeling. He might not be the most talkative of the players around, but he did speak up on his return to Toronto.
“I never went in with a negative mindset, he said as per Josh Lewenberg of TN Sports. Playing with Cory Joseph in San Antonio, him being from that area in Toronto, I knew what the city brought… So I always felt positive with the trade. The front office I knew was great already with Masai being in there.”
“The guys, the journey, also the country, the city, it was amazing. There’s just so much you could keep going on and talking about it.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was also of a similar feeling regarding Leonard’s switch of teams.
“It’s not like he left in bad terms, really,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s one of those leave-good situations, not one of those leave-awful situations, and let’s be honest, in our league it’s usually the other way. He’s had the rare benefit of being able to leave in a happy state. Has it happened? If it is, it’s rare.”
Leonard, who will be looking to lead his team to a seventh victory of the season, said that it will be “fun” to meet the people from his old team.
“It’s a former team that I won a championship with, but it’s (like) any other game,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to see the guys again and congratulate them and be able to shake hands and compete.”
One of the reasons for Leonard choosing the Clippers can be the prospect of coming back to his home state, which now seems to be fulfilled with a good amount of satisfaction.
“I’m able to see my family after the games. I’m in Southern California, beautiful weather, I’m at my house. So everything’s been good.”
The game might also see the return of Paul George, as per the Clippers coach Doc Rivers. And if he does return, it will be interesting to see how Rivers will position the two players together effectively.
George is in the process of recovery and took a step to recovery by playing with the Clippers’ second unit on Saturday.
Paul George missed the entirety of the preseason with the Clippers when he underwent a pair of minor shoulder surgeries this summer. He is yet make his debut for the Clippers since his move from Oklahoma City Thunder and Rivers said that George debuting against Raptors was a “possibility.”
“I doubt that he plays [Monday],” Rivers said. “But it’s a possibility.”