National Basketball Association superstar Kawhi Leonard traded to Toronto

Rosalie Gross
July 19, 2018

"That status can not be gained in any other team in the league, unless you're a player like LeBron who transcends basketball overall, regardless of where he plays".

It was always going to be a tough ask.

Top NBA stars Kawhi Leonard and DeMar Derozan switch teams and conference. But after getting swept in the second round by Cleveland, the Raptors decided massive changes were necessary - first the firing of coach of the year Dwane Casey, and now the trading of a perennial All-Star who once famously declared "I am Toronto".

The Raptors would nearly certainly need another 50+-win season and a deep playoff run if they want to convince Leonard to stay. The trade brings the end of year-long saga between Leonard and the Spurs. The Raptors are a business, and with this trade they have angered many of their customers in a visceral way.

"Soon you'll understand", he added, before signing off for the night: "Don't disturb".

Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during the game against the Denver Nuggets on January 13, 2018, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

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The new chief will face sterner tests against Atletico Madrid and PSG in a pre-season tournament in Singapore next week. He knows he's at a big club, and has a lot of pressure, but I think he has a big character and spirit.

According to the sources, the Sixers were not willing to deal either young player, which essentially stalled the negotiations. Second-best record in the regular season a year ago, behind only Houston.

For Toronto, the move also makes coldhearted sense.

It's a freakish move for the Raptors, who won 59 games previous year and then got excited when LeBron left for the Lakers. Having Leonard there increases the chances of Kyle Lowry re-signing, but both Lowry and power forward Serge Ibaka are past their primes.

A 6-foot-3 guard with good lateral quickness and a nose for the ball, Thames projected as a potential defensive plus in the National Basketball Association but never quite rounded out his offensive game enough as a lead guard or off-ball threat to really get back on the radar, though he did appear in Summer League twice. For DeRozan, who has often professed his love for Toronto, the initial reaction seemed to be one of anger and frustration.

Even after the dismissal of Dwane Casey as head coach and the departure of LeBron from the East, the best that could be said about the Raptors was that, maybe, they would look a like a team that didn't suddenly throw up all over itself at playoff time. I have many great memories that I will take with me.

But Ujiri chose to not wait around to find out.

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