Kawhi Leonard’s first year with the Toronto Raptors has gone just about perfectly. Not only did the star forward stay healthy all year after an injury-plagued final year in San Antonio, but Leonard has led the Raptors to their deepest-ever playoff run, both winning the second-round series against Philadelphia with a last-second shot, and getting past Milwaukee to put Toronto in their first-ever NBA Finals. Then, the Raptors won the first game of their Finals series against the Golden State Warriors.
Overshadowing it all is the notion that Leonard may very well leave Toronto as a free agent after this season. The player is a native of Southern Calif0rnia and is expected to sign closer to home, possibly with the Los Angeles Clippers. Rumors have also connected Leonard with other teams this summer.
But now, a new report suggests that Leonard might remain in Toronto, possibly on a short-term deal.
Per the NBA newsletter True Hoop, citing “plugged-in sources associated with players and the league,” Leonard is willing to remain in Toronto, “at least on a short-term deal.”
The sources are not with the Raptors team, True Hoop said.
Leonard, who played his entire career prior to this season with San Antonio, demanded a trade last summer and was traded to Toronto with one year left on his contract; Leonard also has a player option for next year that he’s expected to decline in order to become a free agent. Toronto, as the player’s current team, are able to offer Leonard more money, with a max level $190 million over five years, as opposed to the four years and $141 million other teams can offer him, per NBC Sports.
NBA teams felt that trading for Kawhi Leonard wasn’t worth the risk. The Toronto Raptors decided that he was. They were right. https://t.co/394Bkm6cp4— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) May 30, 2019
The report comes as the Clippers were issued a $50,000 tampering fine by the league after their head coach, Doc Rivers, in his capacity as a guest commentator on ESPN’s NBA playoff coverage, stated that Kawhi Leonard is “the most like [Michael] Jordan we’ve seen,” per Bleacher Report. The comments by Rivers were seen as the Clippers tampering with a player who is still under contract to another team.
Reporter Josh Lewenberg tweeted on Friday that the Raptors have, on more than one occasion throughout the season, reached out to the league office in order to accuse the Clippers of having “crossed a line” in terms of declaring their interest in Leonard.
Leonard is part of an unusually deep free agent class this offseason, which also includes Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker.