New Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard remained awfully quiet prior to his departure from the San Antonio Spurs organization, but the 2014 NBA champion Finals MVP finally broke his silence.
On Thursday, Leonard wrote a touching letter to the Spurs fans and head coach Gregg Popovich, thanking them all for the support and vowing that he'll "always remember the city and people of San Antonio."
Kawhi Leonard releases first statements since trade to Toronto, saying goodbye to San Antonio and the Spurs: pic.twitter.com/XxSUEwbrQ6— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 9, 2018
Leonard became the franchise star for the Spurs as they transitioned away from the Tim Duncan era, but his relationship with the organization grew sour during the 2017-18 season. Leonard was nursing a nagging quad injury, but it strangely led to tension with players and coaches.
Teammate Tony Parker told reporters that he played through a quad injury that was "a hundred times worse," than Leonard's. The players also reportedly held a meeting and begged Leonard to come back and help them in their playoff push, but that obviously didn't go to well.
It was later reported that Leonard requested a trade out of San Antonio, but the organization worked extensively in trying to convince him to stay. Coach Pop met with Leonard and tried to work out the differences, but the latter never changed his stance on wanting to get traded.
Though Leonard sought a trade to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, the purple and gold weren't willing to meet San Antonio's high asking price. In the end, he and Danny Green were traded to the Spurs in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick in 2019.
Leonard now gets to continue his career with an organization that's coming off a franchise record 59 wins. With LeBron James now out of the Eastern Conference, Leonard and the Raptors have a much clearer path to reaching the NBA Finals.