The Toronto Raptors are making moves to make Kawhi Leonard’s transition to the team a comfortable one.
According to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Raptors have hired former San Antonio Spurs video coordinator Jeremy Castleberry as a player development coach.
Castleberry may be a familiar name, even if he’s still early on in his coaching development. Not only did Castleberry go to San Diego State University where he was a walk-on and a teammate of Leonard, the pair also played together in high school and are childhood friends. Castleberry is also said to have been Leonard’s late-night, early-morning, and offseason workout partner. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN calls him one of Leonard’s “closest confidantes” and has been called Leonard’s “best friend” during the player’s dramatic 2017-18 with the Spurs, during which Castleberry was on the staff. A sociology graduate at SDSU, Castleberry has worked as an intern coach and video coordinator with the Spurs since 2013.
— Lisa Lane (@LisaLane_Sports) February 16, 2014
Obviously, this move seems aimed at appeasing Leonard and showing him how willing the franchise is to make him happy in Toronto. An earlier Raptors Republic report pegged Leonard’s friend Xavier Thames as being in the city right as he was acquired, and while there’s been no movement on that front, it wouldn’t be entirely a surprise if Thames lands an Exhibit 10 deal or be around the organization (or Raptors 905) in some capacity. The Raptors are leaving no doubt that their intention is to retain Leonard beyond this season, and small concessions like this – if it can even be viewed as that, as Castleberry is likely also very good at his job (which explains why he was still with the Spurs while Leonard was away) – are a good way to show him early on that they can be a long-term home.