Fans of the Toronto Raptors rejoiced Saturday night when the team defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of their playoff series to reach the NBA Final — a first in franchise history.
However, not long after, the team’s supporters had reason to worry — all because of an Instagram video shared by the sister of the team’s star player, indicating that Kahwi Leonard will be leaving the team as a free agent next year.
Per The Big Lead, Leonard’s sister Miesha Slayton posted an Instagram Story after the game, in which a male voice declares “they know darn well he ain’t going to be there next year.” The video was later deleted.
Leonard was traded to Toronto last July after he had demanded a release from the San Antonio Spurs, where he had played his entire career up until that point. The trade was made knowing the Leonard could be a free agent in the summer of 2019, with no guarantee that he would re-sign with the Raptors.
Kahwi, who was injured for most of the previous season, has turned things around, winning Game 7 of the team’s second-round series against Philadelphia, with a last-second shot that bounced on the rim four times before going in. In the Milwaukee series, Leonard shined again, racking up 27 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in the decisive Game 6, per ESPN. He also iced the game in the fourth quarter with two late free throws.
“He’s the best player in the league,” Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri said after the game, per ESPN. “And we’re happy he’s in Toronto.”
Leonard is expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents this offseason. As a native of Los Angeles, Leonard is “focused on home and LA” when choosing a new home, per a Bleacher Report story from late last year.
I love Kawhi Leonard so much pic.twitter.com/NcBQk5KCyT— Faizal Khamisa (@SNFaizalKhamisa) May 26, 2019
The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers are both expected to pursue Leonard, who is said to have told San Antonio — at the time of his trade demand last year — that he intended to sign with Los Angeles once he reaches free agency.
Leonard joins Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, and others as the most prominent free agents in an unusually deep class. In addition, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis is expected to be traded when free agency begins. The NBA recently announced an agreement to begin the free agent signing period on the afternoon of June 30, rather than at midnight.