It’s been about 3 weeks since a blockbuster trade sent former finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for 4-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first-round pick, and finally, the 2-time Defensive Player of the Year wrote a letter thanking his former organization for all they’ve done for him. Kawhi had grown quite a bit of resent for his former ball club through the past season, with reports of players teasing him for his quad injury as well as how the team handled his situation. This caused him to request a trade before the start of the season, with his top destination being his hometown Los Angeles to play for the new-look Lakers. But the team ultimately settled with Toronto. And at first, Leonard was apprehensive to play there. There were many reports stating that Kawhi didn’t want to play a single game for the Raptors and wanted to be moved again before the season started, although he is much more open to the idea now.
Now, after weeks of silence, Kawhi released a letter he’d written. He starts it by saying “I have been going back and forth the last few weeks trying to figure out the right things to say, and it comes down to two simple words: THANK YOU!”
He goes on to thank various people and organizations, from the Spurs management, to the fans, to his teammates. But he saves an entire section for his former coach Gregg Popovich where he says “THANK YOU Pop I’ll always be grateful for my growth under your guidance.” Kawhi’s rise to stardom and eventually winning his first (of hopefully many) championship is largely attributed to the genius that is coach Popovich, so it’s fitting that at least Leonard recognizes all his former coach has done for him.
He goes on to say “Through all the ups and downs – I’m glad there were many more ups! – I’ll never forget what we have shared and accomplished together.” It’s heartening to know that despite how Kawhi acted in recent weeks regarding his attitude towards the Spurs organization, he looks back with great admiration for all they’ve done for him. And “while I’m [he’s] looking forward to the next chapter in my [his] career, I’ll [he’ll] always remember the city and the people of San Antonio!”
As aforementioned, Kawhi is coming off of a plagued season due to a lingering injury in his quad. He only played 9 games last season, but the previous year, he finished 3rd in MVP voting after averaging 25.5 PPG on 48.5% from the field and 38.1% from 3, as well as 5.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 1.8 SPG, earning his famous nickname “The Claw”. If Kawhi is able to return back to his 2016-2017 form, then the Raptors will definitely compete for a spot in the finals this upcoming season.
Feature Image via Flikr/Basketball Schedule