Fresh off a second career NBA Finals MVP award in his incredible first season with the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard will soon have to decide whether he wants to stay in the North, or potentially return home to join a contender in the Western Conference.
Kawhi Leonard has been linked to the Clippers for more than a year, since it was first reported that the then-disgruntled Spurs star had requested a trade to Los Angeles. He landed in Toronto with the ability to test free agency in the summer of 2019, but the Raptors made the best possible sales pitch for a long-term relationship.
According to The Athletic’s Frank Isola, Leonard will meet with the Clippers on July 2nd – and the news led Jalen Rose to issue a passionate warning to Leonard before he officially becomes a free agent. Rose says he believes Leonard will remain a Raptor, and argued that Leonard wouldn’t be fully appreciated playing in a “Lakers town.”
“I want to do a warning for him. The grass ain’t always greener, OK? He came to Toronto, and he has a nation behind him. A country behind him. The Clippers’ fans are few and far between in Los Angeles. Don’t get it twisted. That’s a Lakers town. That is a Lakers town, OK? They’ve got the 16 championships, they’ve got the storied players in their history, and the Clippers still play basketball in their building.
So now you’re still pulling up at work and all you’re seeing is great statues. There’s Magic, there’s West, Kobe’s going to be up, there’s Shaq. And then you walk into the arena, you look up, Laker jerseys. How many Clipper jerseys are hanging up? None.
You’re going to go from playing varsity in Toronto, where they just won a championship and Masai Ujiri delivered. The medical team delivered. They kept him healthy. He was 98th in the regular season in minutes. In the playoffs he was first. They managed Kawhi, the entire year. They won a championship without a lottery pick on the roster. That shows you that they know how to build.
You’re going to go to LA.. and they got LeBron? And they got Anthony Davis? Not going to be able to do it. Kawhi, stay in Toronto.”
The best option for Leonard may be to sign a two-year deal with the Raptors with an option for his second year, which would allow him to test free agency next summer after seeing how the power shifts in the league. The Raptors would be considered title favorites if Leonard stays, and he’d give himself the flexibility to sign a major deal elsewhere if a better opportunity arises.
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