Fri. Apr 19th, 2019

Kawhi Leonard: Toronto Raptors chief provides latest Lakers and Clippers update on star

pCloud Premium

Leonard wanted to return to his hometown of Los Angeles last summer after a fall-out over a quadriceps injury saw his relationship with the San Antonio Spurs turn sour.

The 27-year-old was strongly linked with the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers before being traded to the Raptors in a blockbuster trade that saw Toronto give up fans’ favourite DeMar DeRozan.

Yet he can become a free agent this coming summer and it has been widely speculated as to whether the three-time All-Star forward will still look to return to either L.A.-based franchise with both boasting the cap space to try and land him.

Leonard’s time in Toronto thus far has been successful with some suggesting the Raptors could reach the NBA Finals for the first time in the organisation’s history and Ujiri insists they are working hard to prove to Leonard that Canada is the best place for him.

Speaking to Sportsnet’s Prime Time Sports, Ujiri said: “We’re going to be ourselves. There is a huge advantage in recruiting in having him in our house for one year. 

“I’ll take that every day over doing the one-hour presentation to a free agent. He gets to see us, who we are, we can build trust, build a relationship. 

“Kawhi’s a grown man, he’s going to decide what he wants to do.

“I believe just from getting to know Kawhi very, very well now and more that he will make the right decision.

“Our part is to keep doing what we’re doing. His health is our priority. Winning a championship is his priority and I feel that really strongly for us. 

“We’re going to do everything we can that we’re the right organisation and the right place. It’s not just talking. 

“Recruiting is recruiting but we have him every day, he sees who we are and he sees the organisation that we are and I think there’s a lot of substance to that.

“He’s going to make his decision at the end of the year, he’s told us that, he’s told me that. I’m fine with that. When you’re in a position like this, you have a right to look at all your options. 

“We just want to make our option the strongest one and the best one.”

Leonard recently purchased a $13.3million (£10.3m) several hours south of Los Angeles in San Diego but Ujiri does not think it is a sign he he is headed to the Lakers or the Clippers.

Ujiri added: “[It means] Absolutely nothing. I think it’s a property, a place that you have, in my opinion, forever. 

“Regardless of where he plays he was going to get this place. That was explained to me and I’m fully and happily confident with the explanation.

“It was not a big deal at all. It was explained very well and I did not question it for one second.”

Leonard has only played in 43 of the Raptors’ 58 games this season but Toronto boast a 43-16 record and are second in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Milwaukee Bucks in first.

Raptors fans understandably want Leonard to play every game but Ujiri insists they are managing Leonard in order for him to be fully fit for the playoffs after he played just 11 times in the whole of last season.

Ujiri explained: “It was important when we got Kawhi. It was important for us and our plan and our program, and now we’re just executing.

“This is [Raptors assistant and director of sports science] Alex McKechnie along with other people who have helped us with this whole process.

“And I tell fans, I know you want to see him every game, but the guy had an injury last year, we had to take precaution and we had to do the necessary things to help him recover not in one game, not in one month. 

“The goal is the playoffs, the goal is, ‘How do we compete at the end?’ And I think these guys are taking the right measures.

“I think regardless where he plays he was going to get this place. That was explained to me and I’m feeling happy and confident with the explanation.”

pCloud Premium

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.