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SportRaptors’ Kawhi Leonard hopes to shake bitter Oracle memory

15:50  25 may  2019
15:50  25 may  2019 Source:   sfchronicle.com

Last-second shot lifts Raptors over Sixers in Game 7

Last-second shot lifts Raptors over Sixers in Game 7 Last-second shot lifts Raptors over Sixers in Game 7

Kawhi Leonard , who has led Toronto to a 3-2 series edge over Milwaukee in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, hasn’t played in Oakland since a fateful injury two years As each day passes in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, Kawhi Leonard gets a bit closer to Oakland. Redemption at Oracle .

Storyline: Kawhi Leonard to Raptors . 34 rumors in this storyline. Leonard , who is 27 and entering a contract year, should emerge as the best individual player in franchise history if he can fully recover from a quad injury that limited him to nine games last season.

Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard hopes to shake bitter Oracle memory
Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard hopes to shake bitter Oracle memory

As each day passes in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, Kawhi Leonard gets a bit closer to Oakland. Redemption at Oracle. He can almost taste it now.

Kawhi Leonard saved the Raptors’ season for the second Sunday in a row

Kawhi Leonard saved the Raptors’ season for the second Sunday in a row A hurting Kawhi Leonard carried the Raptors yet again.

Kawhi Anthony Leonard (/kəˈwaɪ/, born June 29, 1991) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Raptors ’ Kawhi Leonard hopes to shake bitter Oracle memory . If it seems inconceivable that Leonard would leave Toronto, after lifting the Raptors to their first championship, realize that Leonard is a hard-line businessman, and that he’d enjoy playing in his native Southern California.

The last time we saw Leonard at a Warriors home game, it was Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals, the night he injured his left ankle in that incident with Zaza Pachulia and was lost for the remainder of the series — after racking up 26 points and eight rebounds in 24 dominant minutes.

The San Antonio Spurs eventually blew a 25-point lead in that game, and they never recovered. Neither did Leonard, at least not with that franchise. He played just nine games last season, wound up being traded to Toronto after a long and mysteriously contentious episode over the state of his health, and now he’s staking his claim as the best player in the world — today, as we speak. Toronto holds a 3-2 lead over Milwaukee heading into Saturday night’s Game 6 on the Raptors’ floor, and as the Warriors watch this series from afar, they have to be blown away by Leonard’s command of the proceedings.

Raptors insist Kawhi Leonard is OK, but Kyle Lowry's hand 'is not great'

Raptors insist Kawhi Leonard is OK, but Kyle Lowry's hand 'is not great' Raptors insist Kawhi Leonard is OK, but Kyle Lowry's hand 'is not great'

Actor and comedian Kevin Hart joins Mike Greenberg to talk about the NBA’s best media day moments including New York Knicks center Enes Kanter’s playoff excitement, Toronto Raptors ’ Kawhi Leonard ’s weird laugh, and Los Angeles Lakers guard Michael Beasley’s interview that goes

Storyline: Kawhi Leonard to Raptors . 35 rumors in this storyline. Leonard , who is 27 and entering a contract year, should emerge as the best individual player in franchise history if he can fully recover from a quad injury that limited him to nine games last season.

(Toronto played one game in Oakland this season, on Dec. 12, and Leonard was inactive.)

In the Eastern Conference playoffs long known for titanic individual showdowns — from Bill Russell-Wilt Chamberlain to Larry Bird-Julius Erving to Isiah Thomas-Bernard King — we’re getting a vintage chapter with Leonard squaring off against the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo. The series seemed effectively over when Milwaukee stormed to a 2-0 lead at home, and Leonard appeared to be the only Toronto player mentally equipped to handle the pressure.

How things have changed. Leonard is hurt once again, limping noticeably on his left leg, to the point where it becomes hard to watch. He seems to be pretending the pain and discomfort do not exist. He will take the big shots (35 points in Game 5). He’ll become a playmaker for teammates gaining confidence each game. He’ll grab vital offensive rebounds with his massive hands. And as the best two-way player in basketball, he’ll take it upon himself to guard Antetokounmpo, always with a lot of help.

Doc Rivers: Kawhi Leonard is the 'Most Like Jordan That We've Seen'

Doc Rivers: Kawhi Leonard is the 'Most Like Jordan That We've Seen' Clippers head coach Doc Rivers heaped some serious praise on Kawhi Leonard during an appearance on ESPN on Tuesday by saying the Raptors forward is "the most like Jordan that we've seen." "[Leonard] is the most like Jordan that we've seen," Rivers said. "There's a lot of great players. LeBron is phenomenal, KD is phenomenal. Not that [Leonard] is Jordan or anything like that, but he's the most like him. Big hands, post game, can finish. Great leaper, great defender, in-between game. If you beat him to the spot he bumps you off, and then you add his three-point shooting.

And the one it hopes to keep. Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard showed how vital he is to the Raptors , scoring 39 points to go with 14 rebounds and 5 assists in his team’s win over Philadelphia on Sunday.Credit Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports, via Reuters.

The Raptors won at Oracle Arena for the first time since 2004 on Wednesday. - When it was announced that Kawhi Leonard would miss his second consecutive game with a sore hip, that The Raptors dismantled the Warriors on Wednesday, 113-93, at Oracle Arena, Toronto's second straight

Antetokounmpo doesn’t have any kind of go-to shot — he’ll need to work on that — but once he gets a step on somebody with an intent to drive, it’s over. He’ll dunk it in your face and have you wondering how he covered 17 feet in just two steps. In traffic, it’s the spin move (to his left) that triggers his invincibility. But the Raptors have taken away that move by double-teaming him — usually with Leonard and Pascal Siakam — and sometimes a third defender joins in. They’re also getting back quickly on defense, slowing the Bucks’ feared transition game to a halt. That leaves it up to Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton to knock down shots, with lamentable results over the past two games.

Video by CBS Sports

“I’m not afraid of the moment,” Leonard said after the Raptors’ Game 5 win. “... I’ve been here before. I’ve been to the Finals, and it’s pretty much nothing new that I’m seeing out there. You’ve just got to have fun with it and enjoy it.”

Kawhi Leonard free agency rumors: Star may accept short-term deal from Raptors

Kawhi Leonard free agency rumors: Star may accept short-term deal from Raptors Leonard can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after this season's over. Per TrueHoop: "Of course, he's about to become a free agent. And because of that, as the media you might expect to hear sunny things about Kawhi's return from Raptors sources eager to tamp down the impression Kawhi is bound for the Clippers or another team. "But even before the Finals began, we at TrueHoop heard from plugged-in sources associated with players and the league — but not the team — that Kawhi would return to Toronto, at least on a short-term deal.

One should be wary of counting out Antetokounmpo, who spent the season matching MVP credentials with James Harden. “We’re not going to fold,” he promised. “Come on, man. Best team in the league, man. ... We’re going to come back to Milwaukee being pissed.”

Undoubtedly. But as this series goes on, and the Bucks and Raptors expose their vulnerability, you get the feeling that nothing has changed as far as the league’s best team. It’s the one getting all that rest leading up to the Finals.

A new man — just in time

Toronto guard Fred Van-Vleet comes from Rockford, Ill., a tough town. His biological father was murdered in the street when he was 5. His mom and stepfather took care of him, and he grew up into “a hell of an individual,” former teammate DeMar DeRozan told Toronto’s sportsnet.ca. “A little firecracker. Just his toughness, the way he carries himself, it shows in big moments.” A standout at Wichita State but undrafted (the Raptors signed him as a free agent in 2016), VanVleet was mired in a 3-for-25 playoff shooting slump from 3-point range when he left for Rockford to be with his newborn son between Games 3 and 4. Since returning, he’s 10-for-12. “That’s the formula,” he told reporters. “Zero sleep, have a lot of babies, go out there and let loose.” ... With Harden, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving filling the guard spots on the first and second All-NBA teams, there was no room for Klay Thompson. Russell Westbrook deserved that third-team slot, as well. But Thompson definitely has an argument against Kemba Walker, a tremendous offensive player who had little chance for significant impact in Charlotte. Disappointed but trying to sort it all out, Thompson best explained his NBA status with a single word: “Rings.” ... So it’s back to Toronto and another tedious courtside round of Drake, who seems to think he’s on the Raptors’ roster and is constantly in touch with players from both teams, even putting his hands on Toronto coach Nick Nurse’s shoulders in a reassuring gesture. Drake is a talented cat with some class, but for heaven’s sake, siddown! Maybe Charles Barkley had the right idea on TNT, saying if he was playing in Toronto, “I’d have you throw the ball out of bounds (near the Toronto bench) and I’d knock the hell out of Drake.” Added Shaquille O’Neal: “Me, too. That’s how you do it.” ... Interesting to hear that Harden and Chris Paul are at odds in Houston. The Athletic reported the two having “tense moments with one another throughout Game 6 (against the Warriors), culminating in a verbal back-and-forth postgame that went into the locker room.” It seems Paul has grown weary of the Rockets’ heavy-isolation offense and would like to see more ball movement. He’s absolutely right, too.

Bruce Jenkins is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: bjenkins@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @Bruce_Jenkins1

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Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard hopes to shake bitter Oracle memory
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Singing, chanting Raptors fans take over Oracle after Game 4 win (VIDEO).
"I think we travel, our fans travel really well in the regular season. We get this a lot on the road. It's really amazing," Nick Nurse said.

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