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SportsBruce Arthur: Kawhi’s decision will determine if the party continues or a hangover begins

08:45  19 june  2019
08:45  19 june  2019 Source:   thestar.com

Canada is rooting for Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors — and his former coach says one California city is, too

Canada is rooting for Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors — and his former coach says one California city is, too Jeff Dietz says that coaches at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, Calif., knew that Kawhi Leonard was going to be a remarkable player. But Dietz, who is now just one of many Riverside residents rooting for the Raptors, says what really set Leonard apart was his drive.

For Kawhi Leonard, what a parade. He accepted a cactus intended as a housewarming gift from a fan — from Plant Guy Now comes a hangover , or maybe another celebration. You may have heard that Kawhi is a free agent. The decisions will come quickly for the Raptors as the off-season begins .

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Bruce Arthur: Kawhi’s decision will determine if the party continues or a hangover begins© Vaughn Ridley Kawhi Leonard had nothing but positive things to say about his first year in Toronto. “Man, it was a great experience. Everybody off the court was great. The fans. Just meeting people in Canada. It’s been fun.”

(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.)

For Kawhi Leonard, what a parade. He accepted a cactus intended as a housewarming gift from a fan — from Plant Guy — and it was immediately dubbed a Kawhactus. Kyle Lowry got fans to chant “five more years” and Kawhi and his uncle Dennis Robertson laughed. Kawhi seemed to enjoy it, right up to the point where he re-enacted his famously infamous laugh from his first day in Toronto, and his teammates reacted like he had just won the dunk contest. Board man. Fun guy.

Bruce Arthur: Raptors’ run to within one win of title has come on the shoulders of Kawhi

Bruce Arthur: Raptors’ run to within one win of title has come on the shoulders of Kawhi OAKLAND, CALIF.—Some people speak of him in whispers, as if telling tales of a legend. Some just laugh. It’s spooky, says one Toronto assistant, with reverence. 

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Now comes a hangover, or maybe another celebration. You may have heard that Kawhi is a free agent. He can leave. He might.

In every respect, the year of Kawhi in Toronto was a wild, delirious success. Kawhi was kept healthy by the Raptors medical staff, which was an enormous priority for him. Mutual trust was established, good relationships were built, it worked. The Raptors won the first NBA title in franchise history, and Kawhi was named Finals MVP for the second time. As teammate Fred VanVleet said the other day, “We’ve done it, the city’s done it, the franchise has done it, the coaches have done it, the teammates have done it. We’ve done our job.”

But now comes the decision that will define the near future of the franchise, and of the NBA. Kawhi has made no public commitment whatsoever to staying in Toronto. And right now league sources indicate that, despite everything, his departure is a distinct possibility. It might even be likely.

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To be clear: Kawhi has not made a definitive public statement on his future. Any decision can be dynamic. But as time goes on, it seems clear that the decision is coming down to the Raptors or the Los Angeles Clippers. Kawhi is expected to take meetings in his hometown of L.A.

“When it’s that time and it’s time to sit down, me and my group is going to sit down with each other and lay it all out,” Leonard told reporters before stepping on stage Monday. “It was a good experience, experiencing Mother Nature, all four seasons. Man, it was a great experience. Everybody off the court was great. The fans. Just meeting people in Canada. It’s been fun.”

But there’s a lot of smoke now, blowing in different directions. There are signs of comfort in Toronto; there are signs he may intend to go home. The Raptors case seems well-established: winning, and a promise to continue winning. So a decision to stay would be a bet on team president Masai Ujiri, presuming the Washington Wizards cannot entice him to try to break his contract with an offer that includes a big raise and an ownership stake.

Bruce Arthur: Raptors hope Kawhi sticks around for parade after-party

Bruce Arthur: Raptors hope Kawhi sticks around for parade after-party Bruce Arthur: Raptors hope Kawhi sticks around for parade after-party

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If the decision _ before he arrived, he would have been furious. was taken was being taken would have been taken had been taken. The _ of things was that he was sacked from a job that he had held for over twenty years. upshot uptake upturn upbeat.

A championship is a powerful thing, and Ujiri is a master of persuasion. His pitch would be attractive by every standard: a championship organization with cap space in 2020 or 2021, more guaranteed money and years, and presumably a willingness to trade Kawhi if he decided he ever wanted to leave. Beyond that, there is a franchise that employs the universally respected Dr. Alex McKechnie, that treated Kawhi like a superstar, that was cheered by a city and a country in a way that was staggering and seismic. If Kawhi stayed, the sky would be the limit. Ujiri would have a chance to chase another star alongside a 2021 core of Kawhi, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. It would be a perfect fit.

Unless Kawhi has a different definition of perfect. By leaving, Kawhi would leave guaranteed money on the table, but he has already done that. He could have made $221 million (all figures U.S.) by re-signing in San Antonio; Toronto could offer a five-year deal with a maximum guarantee of $190 million, while the Clippers could offer four years for around $140 million.

A deal with the Clippers would be going home. Kawhi was born and raised in Riverside, Calif., east of Los Angeles, and went to San Diego State University. Earlier this year he bought a $13.3-million mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego. The Clippers have kept close watch on Kawhi all season, and cleared two maximum salary slots by trading forward Tobias Harris to the 76ers. They are expected to chase Kawhi and a second star.

Bruce Arthur: Toronto needs to channel its inner Kawhi, be cool, and leave the poor man alone.

Bruce Arthur: Toronto needs to channel its inner Kawhi, be cool, and leave the poor man alone. Toronto, nice to see you. You look beautiful, as always. You do still have a bit of a dishevelled hungover-but-still-drunk vibe going, but that’s to be expected, I suppose. A championship! What a feeling, right? Watching Marc Gasol guzzle an entire bottle of wine atop a double-decker bus and then sit next to the Prime Minister and mumble, “I’m drunk, man,” was the rare and treasured Canadian-Spanish Heritage Moment. But Toronto, it’s time for a talk. First, put the phone away. I know, big ask. But put it down, because otherwise you might use it to take a picture of Kawhi Leonard. And — not to put too fine a point on this — we need to leave Kawhi the hell alone. Seriously.

So can Ujiri stick the landing to his most audacious move yet? It might not be possible, but he will find out. Between Games 3 and 4 of the Finals, Kawhi was asked about his legacy.

“I just want to play and just let people remember that I played hard at both ends of the floor, I was a winner, and that's basically it,” he said. “I’m just here enjoying my dream, having fun. I mean, legacy is going to be opinionated by each person, but I'm just playing right about myself, really, and what I feel, what makes me happy.”

Kawhi has to decide what truly makes him happy, and he gets to decide. Maybe he thinks his talent and everything it brings is portable, that the Clippers have enough talent to contend even after the crosstown Lakers traded for Anthony Davis. Maybe he just wants to go home, to be near the people he has known the longest. If so, you can’t even be mad.

Kawhi defines franchises. He has defined this one this season, and there will be a huge hangover if he leaves. He’s been quite a lot of fun, this guy. It would be a shame for that fun to end.

Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur

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At any given moment, there are ten miniature Kawhi Leonards shooting hoops at the basketball courts in my east end Toronto park — aka kids wearing Toronto Raptors jerseys or t-shirts affixed with the name and number of their hero. And at any given moment, they will rejoice or perhaps more likely, they will despair. Because at any given moment they’ll find out if Kawhi Leonard—the mysterious guy behind the legendary buzzer beater and our city’s first championship title—will stay or if he’ll go. This isn’t your average free agency waiting game that interests the sports obsessed and no one else.

usr: 3
This is interesting!