Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard was booed and taunted in his return to San Antonio, as disgruntled Spurs fans voiced their displeasure and anger at him for forcing a trade out of town in the offseason.
The Spurs and their fans got the last laugh on Thursday, routing the Raptors 125-107 in a contest that wasn't even close. Though this victory was sweet for Spurs supporters - and especially for All-Star DeMar DeRozan - head coach Gregg Popovich wasn't happy with the treatment Leonard got in his return.
"I felt badly about it," Popovich said, per according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com. "Kawhi's a high-character guy. We all make decisions in our lives with what we're going to do with our futures, and he has that same right as any of us. So I felt badly, in all honesty."
Spurs fans chanted "traitor" and were noticeably quiet during the tribute to Leonard on the jumbotron. Interestingly, Danny Green - who came over to Toronto from San Antonio in the trade - received a much warmer reception than Leonard. Mind you, Green wasn't the one who asked for a trade out of town.
Leonard finished the contest with 21 points, one rebounds, five assists and two steals. He made eight-of-13 field goal attempts and was successful on five of seven free throws. But Toronto was completely outmatched by a surging Spurs team, who jumped out to a 38-19 lead after one quarter.
Despite the loss, the Raptors remain second in the Eastern Conference. They've struggled over the past two weeks, with key players in Jonas Valanciunas and All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry being sidelined with injuries.
The Spurs, meanwhile, have won the straight and seven of their last 10. After a sluggish first two months to open up the season, DeRozan and co. are finding their groove and look poised to continue their playoff streak.
What this Means
Leonard's tenure in San Antonio was nothing short of remarkable: Two NBA Finals appearances, a championship in 2014 and two Defensive Player of the Year awards. His return to San Antonio is over with, now Leonard and his old team can move on to the next chapter.