SportsKawhi Leonard was worth it, even if he leaves the Raptors

17:07  13 may  2019
17:07  13 may  2019 Source:   msn.com

NBA playoffs 2019: Raptors' Nick Nurse praises Kawhi Leonard's 'big-time' performance

NBA playoffs 2019: Raptors' Nick Nurse praises Kawhi Leonard's 'big-time' performance Leonard started the Toronto Raptors' series against the Philadelphia 76ers with 45 point and 11 rebounds.

Kawhi Leonard was worth it, even if he leaves the Raptors © Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

That shot against the 76ers forever cements his Toronto legacy even if he departs this summer.

Anyone who thinks that Kawhi Leonard will stay with the Toronto Raptors this summer because of that mind-blowing, buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper at the end of Game 7 on Sunday doesn’t really understand that Kawhi Leonard doesn’t follow the plot all that well. Kawhi is a legend in spite of going completely off script as a superstar. No matter what happens this season in Toronto, it’s always been the case that Leonard is going to do what Leonard wants to do this summer, whether that’s stay in The North, move to Los Angeles, or whatever.

Kawhi Leonard’s body language after Game 3 loss sparks concern

Kawhi Leonard’s body language after Game 3 loss sparks concern The body language of Kawhi Leonard after the Toronto Raptors’ 116-95 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday sparked some fan reactions. Leonard’s Raptors were beaten thoroughly, trailing almost from beginning to end. It really got away in the fourth quarter as Philly cruised to a 21-point victory. The Sixers now lead the series, 2-1. When Leonard sat down for his post-game press conference, he looked exhausted and defeated. Kawhi's body language speaks volumes pic.twitter.

What that incredible shot to vanquish the Sixers did is prove that even if this only lasts until the Raptors are eliminated or win the 2019 championship (whichever comes first), the risk was worth it.

Toronto had a perfectly cromulent team before general manager Masai Ujiri traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a pick to the Spurs for Leonard and Danny Green. Given that LeBron James slid over the Western Conference early in free agency, the Raptors would have been justified in running it back. DeRozan and Kyle Lowry had proven they could carry a team deep in the playoffs, and their primary NBA Finals obstacle had removed himself from the situation.

Is everyone done sleeping on Kawhi Leonard yet?

Is everyone done sleeping on Kawhi Leonard yet? LeBron James held the title for so long, at least nine years, that it’s hard to remember a time when the throne sat empty. Following a very mortal season in Los Angeles, however, it’s worth re-examining the greatest basketball player on the planet. These playoffs have provided compelling arguments for two players, in particular. One is obvious: Kevin Durant. He has been part of the conversation for five years and continues to set a new standard for 7-footers. Finally, it seems, there’s proper acknowledgement of his defense. The other has taken longer for most fans to get used to as a contender: Kawhi Leonard.

Hasn’t patience proven to be a powerful tool in the NBA this season, after all? Consider the closely fought series to produce the second conference finalist in the West. The Blazers were swept out of the first round by a No. 6 seed last year. The Nuggets didn’t even make the playoffs. Neither team made major changes to their roster last offseason. And here they were, worthy competitors fighting to the last moment for a spot in the conference finals. Patience paid off for them.

Ujiri and the Raptors opted to roll the dice instead, trying to create something greater at risk of conceding stability for the long-term. DeRozan was around for the long run; Kawhi could have been a destabilizing rental. (He still could be.) But in that one season guaranteed with Leonard, the Raptors could be great. They could destroy the demons. They could do something more.

And here they were. The bet paid off.

In a dark time, Kawhi Leonard is the hero we need

In a dark time, Kawhi Leonard is the hero we need We needed that. In the year of no spring, at a time when our leaders seem to be giving up on the future itself, in the grey days after yet another Maple Leafs let-down, we needed a hero. Kawhi Leonard is that hero. We’ll be replaying The Shot for years to come, savouring every bounce of the buzzer-beater to beat all buzzer-beaters. Thousands of words have been spilled describing it, with thousands more to follow. For us, we’ll just endorse the reaction of the great LeBron James: “!! !! !! !! !! !! !!” Now, our expert colleagues in the sports department tell us, it gets harder. Maybe too hard for these Raptors.

It’s true that the Raptors under DeRozan and Lowry also made the Eastern Conference finals. That incredible shot by Leonard — one that will anchor every Raptors hype video for the near and long-term future, barring a sequel in the next round — aside, Toronto hasn’t actually accomplished anything more than the last version of the team.

Yet thanks to where the Raptors are now, even if a familiar place, the bet on Kawhi feels justified. It feels as though the way Toronto got to this point — against a worthy foe in an ultra-close series, with a Raptors’ hero making one of the greatest shots of the millennium — makes whatever happens in July acceptable.

Of course, the Raptors would love for that shot to cement mutual and long-lasting love between Kawhi and the people of Toronto. Maybe it will. Maybe Kawhi loves warm weather and Doc Rivers a little bit more. We’ll see. But even if Toronto ends up back in the lottery next season because Leonard has fled, for this moment — this rare moment that so few NBA fans experience — it will have been worth it.

These fleeting moments of unbridled joy and unfathomable hope are why anyone gives so much of themselves to be a fan. You stick through the painful losses and the memes and the jokes and the daggers for moments like this. You risk getting burned for that rare opportunity to explode with happiness. Vulnerability is a prerequisite for what Toronto experienced Sunday evening.

Trading for Kawhi with no guarantees for next season made the Raptors more vulnerable than ever. At least the DeRozan and Lowry duo for sure wanted to be in Toronto. But the vulnerability created by Kawhi’s uncertain future and Raptors fans’ belief in Leonard made Sunday more special. You can’t win big without risking a little. The Raptors did that by betting they could bring Kawhi back into the spotlight. It worked.

Now we see if it’s enough to get the Raptors somewhere they’ve never been before: the NBA Finals.

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All because of a random voice.

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