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The Kawhi Leonard Saga Continues With Trade To The Raptors

Kawhi Leonard once earned the very rare distinction of an NBA rookie that San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was willing to put his trust in. 

After leading San Diego State to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and an overall 34-3 record as a sophomore in 2011 while averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, he started 39 games with the Spurs as a rookie in 2012.

San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard: 2011 Feature

Uploaded by gpateire on 2014-05-25.

And Popovich, who is normally guarded, abrupt and taciturn in his public statements about his young players, was giddy.

“I think he’s going to be a star,” Pop gushed about Leonard prior to his second NBA season. “And as time goes on, hell be the face of the Spurs, I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable. He’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had [two years] of college…, you can see that he’s going to be something else.”

And that prognostication was proven to be correct. In just his second pro season, Leonard averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds in a seven-game loss to the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals.

The next year, though, was his true coming out party. Leonard catapulted himself from a promising young talent into rareified air as one of the very best overall players in the league. The 2014 Spurs were a basketball lover’s dream, a deep squad that played with an unselfishness, fluidity and supreme ball movement that garnered a league-best 62 regular season wins. 

Toronto Raptors on Twitter

Official: We’ve acquired Kawhi Leonard & Danny Green from the San Antonio Spurs for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl & a 2019 protected first-round draft pick. More ” https://t.co/074JddI7af

Toronto Raptors on Twitter

Official: We’ve acquired Kawhi Leonard & Danny Green from the San Antonio Spurs for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl & a 2019 protected first-round draft pick. More ” https://t.co/074JddI7af

They had six players that averaged double-figures, led by Tony Parker and an aging Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. But the true revelation was Leonard, only 22 years old.

San Antonio avenged their championship loss to the Heat the year prior, winning the 2014 Finals in dominant fashion. Miami walked into that series having won 11 straight playoffs series. But after five games, they got smoked like Cousin Harold in Menace II Society.

It was the Spurs’ first championship since 2007 and they’d outscored Miami by an average of 14 points per game in the series, the largest differential in Finals history. In the postseason, they had 12 wins by 15 points or more. They weren’t just good. They were great.

And the reason why wasn’t Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, the aforementioned future Hall of Famers. It was simply due to the sudden emergence of Kawhi, who was named the Finals MVP.

He averaged 18 points per game while shooting a ridiculous 61% from the floor, including a ridiculous 58% from deep. That was the highest field goal percentage ever recorded by a Finals MVP, and he became the youngest player to win the prestigious award since the great Magic Johnson had done so in 1980.

Throwback: Kawhi Leonard Full Series Highlights vs Miami Heat (2014 NBA Finals) – Finals MVP! HD

Will Kawhi Leonard go to the Lakers this 2018 off season? Check out his full series highlights | Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs – All Games | 2014 NBA Finals Subscribe, Like & Comment for More! ——— Follow our Instagram: https://goo.gl/Syw81B Follow our Twitter: https://goo.gl/5aata7

It was the beginning of what seemed to be a great transition towards the next generation of Spurs greatness. But like The Departed or Dead Presidents, it became an incredible story that was ruined by a very wack ending.

This morning, we learned that the Spurs have agreed to trade Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick.

The teams had been discussing the trade for close to two weeks. And it seems that the two best players involved are about as happy about it as Theon Greyjoy being turned into Reek on Game of Thrones.  

DeRozan, who has three years and $83 million left on his contract, including an early-termination option for the 2020-21 season, wrote on Instagram this morning, “Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing… Soon you’ll understand… Don’t disturb…”

BREAKING: Kawhi Leonard TRADED to Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard is being traded to the Toronto Raptors for a package that includes DeMar DeRozan Full Duel highlights (2017.01.03) – Kawhi 25 Pts 3 Blks, DeMar 26 Pts Subscribe, Like & Comment for More!

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri took a crazy risk in pursuing the trade, considering that Leonard has already said that he does not want to play for Toronto and will sign elsewhere when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next year. 

Ujiri is hoping that he can sell Leonard on re-signing with the Raptors next summer, where he can offer a five-year, $190 million deal. But the now-former Spur has never wavered about his desire of eventually returning to his hometown to play in Los Angeles.

San Antonio worked long and hard over the years, from its transitions from David Robinson to Tim Duncan and eventually Leonard, to stay ahead of the curve by remaining at the top of the NBA food chain for a remarkable 21-year run of consecutive playoff appearances.

Their culture of sustained selflessness was once the league’s Gold Standard. And now, the once-vaunted Spurs seem to be fraying at the edges.

Chris Haynes on Twitter

Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.

Popovich’s wife sadly passed away in April, and no one knows how much longer he plans to coach. Leonard was one of those rare players whose talents you could build an entire roster around. And now he’s gone. 

A swift series of well chronicled events including injury and its possible misdiagnosis, mistrust and miscommunication quickly mushroomed into some ill will that resulted in a split similar to Ice Cube from N.W.A. that has now ensued.

Despite being on the precipice of snagging a five-year super max extension this summer worth $221 million from the Spurs, Kawhi told them to Beat It like Billie Jean!

Now, no one knows where the next era of Spurs basketball is headed. 

DeMar DeRozan COLD Montage, Full Offense Highlights 2017-2018 (Part 1) – All-Star Starter!

Check out full highlights by DeMar DeRozan from Toronto Raptors | 2017-18 NBA Season Subscribe, Like & Comment for More! ——— Follow our Instagram: https://goo.gl/Syw81B Follow our Twitter: https://goo.gl/5aata7

DeRozan is one of the best players in the league, but Toronto obviously felt that they couldn’t win a championship with him. Perhaps they think Kawhi will at least propel them to the NBA Finals before he’s ready to bounce after next year.

Popovich tried to salvage the situation with Leonard, but even the man considered to be among the greatest NBA coaches ever and a player-favorite, couldn’t make it happen. 

So for now, we’ll have to see what Kawhi brings to his one-and-done campaign in Toronto next year, while DeRozan licks his wounds and establishes his next chapter wearing a Spurs uniform. 

Kawhi Leonard’s Best of the 2016-2017 NBA Season

Kawhi Leonard finished with a career high in points (25.5 per game) and rebounds (5.8) as he led the San Antonio Spurs to the second best record in the NBA. Enjoy the best highlights from his stellar season.

But until next summer, presumably, unless another major move shakes loose, there’s nothing to do but sit back and wait for the next episode of the Kawhi drama to unfold.

For someone who’s reticent about speaking and basking in the noise that NBA stardom brings, Kawhi Leonard just made more noise this offseason than anyone not named LeBron James. 

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