There’s not much more Kawhi Leonard could have done in his first season in Toronto.
He became a viral Internet star countless times over, spawned the now-iconic “load management” term, re-established himself as a Top 3 player in basketball, led his team to its first NBA championship, and won Finals MVP to cap it all off.
As far as years go, it’s tough to top all that.
Despite the individual and team success, Leonard is reported to be meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers on July 2 about the possibility of taking his talents to Southern California. Former NBA star and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose vehemently believes that would be the wrong move for the 27-year-old.
“I want to do a warning for him,” Rose said on ESPN radio Tuesday. “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, 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, and 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 [total] 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.”
Tell us how you really feel, Jalen.
Toronto is still the favourite to sign Leonard once free agency opens, and Raptors president Masai Ujiri reaffirmed his confidence in keeping the three-time all-star in Canada during a press conference Tuesday. With the way Leonard carries himself, though, it’s impossible to know which way he’s leaning until he puts pen to paper on a new contract.
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