When Kawhi Leonard requested a trade from the Spurs a year ago, it was made well-known by his camp that Los Angeles or New York were his preferred destinations.
Instead, he was sent to Toronto in a blockbuster deal that, as we know now, shifted the balance of power in the suddenly LeBron-less conference north of the border. The Raptors are headed to the NBA Finals to face off with the Warriors, making their first appearance in the championship series in franchise history, and many wonder if the run has done enough to make Leonard want to be a Raptor long-term.
Leonard’s free agency has hung over everything the Raptors have done this season, but it’s been clear it hasn’t effected his play in the slightest, whether he wants to stay or not. What he’s done in these playoffs has been nothing short of heroic, and whether he stays or goes, this season will live forever in Toronto sports lore. Still, Raptors fans want him to be in Toronto for the long haul and his initial trepidation about the trade will always lurk in the back of everyone’s minds as he enters free agency.
Dennis Robertson, aka Uncle Dennis, who serves as Kawhi’s “business strategist” has long been a mysterious figure working behind the scenes for Kawhi and many felt was the one pushing for New York and L.A. to be his next destination. Robertson recently spoke with Yahoo’s Chris Haynes and explained that while Leonard was initially not thrilled with the trade to Toronto, it wasn’t because he disliked the city, but simply because it wasn’t a trade to his preferred destination.
“When you are initially traded somewhere you didn’t asked to be, you don’t want to accept it,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports. “But once you get through that period, the focus then turns to giving your all and performing at a high level. It never had anything to do with the city of Toronto. It wasn’t. Toronto is a beautiful city. Kawhi has often spoke highly of Toronto. It’s a beautiful place. That was just an initial reaction, which is normal. But we’re enjoying this run and looking forward to the Finals.”
For Raptors fans looking for a sign that he might be more inclined to stay than initially thought, this is a positive statement from Uncle Dennis. Robertson went on to explain they’re not focused on free agency yet and won’t turn their attention to that until after the Finals, but it’s clear that this season in Toronto has, at the least, been one that Leonard and his camp view quite positively.
Whether that’s enough to keep him in town remains to be seen, but the Raptors success on the court has to at least have the superstar intrigued about the possibility of lording over the East in Toronto for years to come.