Kawhi Leonard will make his anticipated return to San Antonio on Thursday, when the Toronto Raptors visit old friend DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs.
The storyline will completely center around Leonard - who orchestrated his way out of San Antonio with a trade request - and DeRozan, who was heartbroken when Masai Ujiri informed him of the move.
Leonard asked for a trade after a falling out with Spurs coaches, teammates and management. The team pushed Leonard to return last season as he dealt with a nagging quad injury. It got to a point where Leonard felt disrespected and wanted a fresh start, which the Spurs reluctantly gave him.
As Gregg Popovich prepares to go up against one of the greatest players he's ever coached, the Spurs head coach had a short and simple answer in regards to why they don't regret trading Leonard.
"You move on in life," Popovich said, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com. "We're not going to redo what's happened in the past in any way, shape or form. It's of no consequence at this point, and it does no good to go backward and talk about this, that or the other...You're gonna say whatever you want. It's a waste of our time. "
After leading the Spurs to the 2014 NBA Championship - where he was named Finals MVP - Leonard was supposed to replace the legendary Tim Duncan as face of the franchise. Until last June (when he requested to be dealt), nobody could have possibly expected that Leonard would be wearing a different uniform in 2019.
But when all was said and done, Leonard was indeed traded to the Raptors - along with Danny Green - for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick. Both Leonard and DeRozan have fit in nicely with their new teams, but it's Toronto who sits second in the league standings - while the Spurs are barely holding onto a playoff spot.
Leonard's tenure in San Antonio didn't last as long as the franchise had hoped, but it was still extremely successful nonetheless. He did his job in leading them to a championship and keeping the team in title contention before the trade.
What This Means
As Popovich said, the Spurs simply just had to move on. They couldn't get any premium offers, so they settled on what Ujiri had to offer for Leonard. The Spurs will have to ensure to treat their current and future stars better, otherwise they could force a trade the way Leonard did.