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SportsKawhi Leonard ruins dynasties

07:50  14 june  2019
07:50  14 june  2019 Source:   msn.com

Raptors coach Nick Nurse expects a better game from Kawhi Leonard on Sunday

Raptors coach Nick Nurse expects a better game from Kawhi Leonard on Sunday TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors beat defending champion Golden State in Game 1 despite an off night for superstar Kawhi Leonard. The Warriors threw the kitchen sink of defence at Leonard, who shot just 5-for-14 for 23 points in the Raptors' 118-109 victory. Raptors coach Nick Nurse expects a different game from his star in Game 2 on Sunday. "I'm expecting him to play a lot better tomorrow," Nurse said. Leonard, who missed all but nine games last season with San Antonio because of a quadriceps injury, appeared to be limping at times during Game 1.

Kawhi Leonard ruins dynasties

(Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.)

He did it once before to LeBron James’ Heat. Now, he’s done it again to a great Warriors team.

Before the NBA playoffs began, I listed Kawhi Leonard as the most interesting player among those on the 16 rosters participating. Leonard held up his end of the bargain. He anchored a throttling of the Magic in the first round (after a brief but classic Toronto hiccup in Game 1). He destroyed the Sixers in the physical, metaphysical, and psychic realms. He flipped a switch to lock up presumptive MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and beat the Bucks four straight times. And now he’s toppled the dynastic, dynamic Golden State Warriors.

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What strikes me as most interesting about Leonard’s story is it really lacks a story. There’s no narrative here now that he’s spurned the Spurs and remains uncommitted to the Raptors. Leonard is adrift in a sea of his own excellence, floating in and out of championship-level basketball without apparent destiny or purpose at play.

We thought Leonard was wrapped in a narrative back when he won the 2014 Finals MVP: he would be the second coming of Tim Duncan. A hard-working, lead-by-example, elite defender who can drop 30 efficiently too — someone who’d take every snap from Gregg Popovich without cracking, someone reliable and egoless. That didn’t exactly pan out. Leonard’s body proved unreliable in the end, and his ego (or his uncle, depending on who you read) proved paramount, as he basically sat out last season and asked for a trade.

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So much for being the next Duncan.

The Spurs never get emotional and shipped Leonard to the Raptors. The deal frayed Toronto’s feelings, or at least Kyle Lowry’s. Leonard healed the wound. The Raptors are as good as ever, which is saying something given where Toronto has been the last couple of years. Yet Leonard hasn’t so much has hinted he’ll stick around, no matter how perfect the supporting cast or how committed Toronto is to providing whatever he needs, whether rest or power or anything.

But now the bud of blossoming narrative is poking through Ontario’s frost. It’s that Leonard is a disruptor of this NBA generation’s dynasties.

Excised from the narrative of the Spurs’ next perfect-for-Pop quiet giant, Leonard’s role in beating the Heat in 2014 takes on this tone. It wasn’t so much a continuation of San Antonio preeminence, but a monkey wrench named Kawhi thrown into Miami’s gears on the eve of three-peat.

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After that title, the Heat broke up and the Warriors rose to replace them. By 2017, with Duncan retired and Leonard on his second contract, the Spurs were poised to invite themselves to the standing tea party the Warriors and LeBron James’ Cavaliers had organized. San Antonio had won 67 games and led Golden State by 20 in the first game of their highly anticipated West finals match-up. Then, Leonard landed on Zaza Pachulia’s foot and only played nine total games for the Spurs until he was traded. We don’t know whether Leonard could have truly disrupted the Warriors’ dynasty then, or whether that Game 1 was a fluke. But it didn’t feel like a fluke at the time.

Now we’re here. Kawhi is a two-time Finals MVP, the Toronto Raptors are champions, and he has proved what once thought plausible: he slayed the Warriors. He destroyed another dynasty, just like he did to the Heat in ‘14.

If you’re searching for a rhyme to put with Leonard’s reason — if you need a story to tell yourself about what motivates Leonard as he plays with the most intense cool we have in this league — this might be it. Just as he’s turned so many opponents’ possessions on their heads by sticking his hand in the play, he could be wrecking another franchise’s storied run by leaping in.

And heck, maybe he’ll do that and still leave for Los Angeles (wearing Clippers black), or Los Angeles (wearing Lakers gold), or wherever this summer. Such a chaotic sports league needs chaotic actors. Why shouldn’t one of them also be one of the best players?

It fits his style. Now it fits his narrative, too.

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Petition asking Kawhi Leonard to stay reaches 20 per cent of its goal in one day.
It’s only been a day since a petition asking Kawhi Leonard to stay with the Raptors was launched and it had already reached 20 per cent of its goal. As of Sunday, the petition has amassed more than 20,000 signatures out of its goal of 100,000. The campaign was announced on Saturday by Mayor John Tory alongside Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia and Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih. Danny Green, who joined the team last July from the San Antonio Spurs alongside Leonard, is also entering free agency this month. Green said at an event on Saturday that he believes there’s a “higher percentage” that Leonard would continue with the Raptors.

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