Kawhi opts-out but is leaning to staying; Webster is ready though | Raptors hate Trump | Ibaka flexing in Paris
Free agency around the corner? Must be billboard season in LA. pic.twitter.com/2MAVZ8Yvwx
— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) June 24, 2019
Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard will decline his 2019-20 player option worth $21.3 million to become an unrestricted free agent, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The 6-foot-7 All-Star will be one of the marquee free agents on the open market.
The Raptors are the only team that can offer Leonard a max contract for five years and $190 million.
Leonard, 27, is believed to be seriously considering re-signing with the Raptors, sources said.
But there are a handful of teams who could secure a meeting with the 2019 NBA Finals MVP, sources said.
The appeal of returning home to Southern California is enticing to the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but with the trust the Raptors built while Leonard led the franchise to its first NBA title by upsetting the Golden State Warriors, rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins June 30, sources said.
Now, there are two distinct parts to this tweet, so let’s break the both down, shall we?
If you’ve been following the Kawhi Leonard’s free agency — and NBA free agency in general — closely, the fist part of the tweet is a no-brainer. Leonard’s current contract technically runs through the end of next season, but has a player option for that season, meaning he can choose to complete the contract — or opt out, and become an unrestricted free agent.
Leonard will choose the latter, because it makes more financial sense; as an unrestricted free agent, Leonard can sign a new contract now, one which will pay him more money next season than the current deal, and extend into the future.
The exact dollar figure and length of Leonard’s new contract, much like the team he chooses to sign it with, remains to be seen. He can sign in Toronto for a maximum of five years and $190 million total; he can choose to sign elsewhere for a maximum of four years and $141 million total. (Figures based on current cap projections.) He can choose to sign for fewer years, anywhere (provided that team has the cap space); no matter the years, Toronto can still offer the highest annual salary. (The starting salary, as our cap guru Daniel Hackett figures it, would be in the $32.7 million range.)
And that’s where the second part of Haynes’ tweet comes in.
The infamously stoic Leonard has yet to give any real indication of where he might sign next year; the Raptors and Clippers seem to have been the favourites for some time, but that’s really just been rumours and speculation.
There’s a sense that Haynes, on the other hand, seems to be plugged in, at least as well as anyone can be, to Kawhi’s camp.
General manager Bobby Webster says the franchise is putting the finishing touches on its pitch to the impending free agent who meant so much to the team in his one championship year here.
“There’s definitely more (things to be done),” Webster said in an end-of-the-season media session Friday morning. “As you can imagine, there are a ton of thoughts and ideas. Collecting those and putting them more in presentation, or a little more in order, will help … as we start to think about the different ways to pitch him.”
The look of the final presentation will be a closely guarded secret but it is not the Raptors’ style to go too far over the top to convince a star of Leonard’s magnitude to stay. Nor is it in his style to be blown away by bells and whistles.
But aside from the financial benefits — the Raptors can offer a five-year deal worth about $190 million (all figures U.S). while other teams can go to four years and about $140 million — Toronto will dangle its championship pedigree, the medical staff Leonard grew so fond off this season, and a chance to keep winning in familiar surroundings.
The other serious suitor — the Los Angeles Clippers — can bring Leonard closer his La Jolla, Calif., hometown and have gone to extraordinary heights to woo free agents in the past. They put on a flashy dog-and-ponies show trumpeting Blake Griffin as a champion and a Clipper for life and it worked, right up until they traded the homegrown superstar about 10 months later.
Regardless, Leonard is more about steak than sizzle, and Webster said there is only some polishing to do on the pitch they can officially make at 6 p.m. ET on June 30.
“Obviously we’ll want to put a couple special touches on it,” Webster said. “But throughout the year we’ve been talking about the things we can offer and what made this season so special. I think we’ll just continue that.”
The Raptors have been taking care of other business, even as an extended run to a championship was taking place.
ESPN NBA analyst Seth Greenberg explains why he thinks it makes the most sense for Kawhi Leonard to stay in Toronto.
Incorrect — Kyle Lowry is no longer an All-Star
Lowry wasn’t anywhere close to being named as a starter, and he was no sure bet to squeak in as a reserve, but he showed in the playoffs that he’s still capable of All-Star level performances when it matters most. Sure, the days of Lowry scoring 20 points a night are over, but he still impacts winning at the highest level.
That being said, Lowry was having his worst season since 2013 at the time of his announcement. He was averaging 14.2 points, 9.4 assists (second in the NBA), and 4.5 rebounds and his shooting percentages were down across the board. There was even chatter that an emerging Pascal Siakam was more deserving, but realistically, both Lowry and Siakam should have made the team in what was yet another weak crop of talent from the East.
To project Green’s potential as a broadcaster is probably as silly as projecting how a 19-year-old will do in the NBA. But he’s clearly a bright guy who gives thoughtful answers to questions. He’s honest —or as honest as a player can be without getting in the soup with his organization. He provides clear explanations on basketball questions. He is funny. Not Charles Barkley funny but someone with good comic timing. He’s also self-deprecating, which is a huge asset in broadcasting. (He has repeatedly called himself “The Other Guy In The Trade” in reference to being part of the Kawhi Leonard deal last July.) What he needs, at least to my eyes, is more reps and to find the medium and outlet that best suits his talent. He’s l0w-key and analytical by nature so a basketball-heavy show such as “The Jump” would be a great fit as opposed to being the foil for a Baylessian hot take artist. Green doesn’t think he’d work great on radio, but I think he would be terrific at a place like Sirius XM NBA Radio.
“He’s very patient, accessible and very clear in his understanding of what ‘the media’ are trying to do and his role there and willing in an organic way to facilitate,” said Michael Grange, who covers the team for Sportsnet (we are colleagues there) and is one of the prominent basketball media voices in Canada. “He’s not outspoken or prone to emotional comments, both by nature — I think he’s a pretty calm, rational guy — and design: He’s aware of his message and how it gets communicated and wants it to be relevant to the well-being of the team. He’s a good guy to speak with to help fill out a feature on a teammate, coach, or broader-themed issue. But he’s also just a friendly, approachable person, which goes miles and miles and miles. The combination of his approachability and his ability to communicate a coherent message put him in the upper tier of NBA athletes (or anyone, really).”
As to Green having a future in broadcasting, Grange said, “I would guess it is very high. The big thing is he seems to want to do it and he’s laying groundwork well in advance, doing some of his own broadcasting with his pod and with all the reps he’s had over his career as a go-to quote. He seems to respect the idea that it’s a craft and he’s willing to work at it, which is huge. It’s also very easy to imagine him being a team player on the production side, which I presume would be welcomed. Being a three-time finalist and twice champion is big on the credibility front, as well as having exposure to organizations like North Carolina, the Spurs and now what will likely be a few more teams in his last three or four seasons. I see him more as a color guy/analyst than a panel member. He’s quick on his feet so he’d be fine anywhere, but I don’t think the debating side of it would come naturally to him, but I could be wrong.”
Ibaka, who is coming off an NBA championship win with the Raptors, is a fashion buff who regularly shows off his outfits to his one million followers on Instagram and 881,000 on Twitter.
Earlier this month Vogue gave Ibaka’s fashion sense a massive thumbs-up.
“As one of the most fashion-forward players in the NBA, Ibaka has consistently been ahead of the curve with his style,” the magazine wrote. “Throughout the playoffs, he arrived to games in dapper custom suits or wide brim hats by Nick Fouquet, turning the pre-game into a showcase for the best in menswear. Whether that meant an embroidered Valentino jacket at Eastern Conference semifinals back in May, or Chanel’s take on the sweatshirt later that same week, Ibaka always keeps things interesting.”
The 29-year-old Ibaka is a regular at the Paris fashion show. He joined Kanye West, singer Rita Ora, hip-hop star A$AP Rocky and fellow NBAers Russell Westbrook and Jaylen Brown at last year’s event.
“I just don’t think that we accept,” Raptors player Danny Green said during Yahoo’s Inside the Green Room podcast, speaking of his opposition to Trump’s policies and views. “And I try to respect everybody in every field that they do, regardless of how crazy things are, but he makes it really hard. He makes it very, very tough to respect how he goes about things and does things.
“To put it politely, I think it’s a hard no.”
No NBA champion has visited the White House since the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, when Barack Obama’s second term was winding down. The Warriors, champions in 2017 and 2018, and Trump have long had a contentious relationship, with Trump famously rescinding an invitation after Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and others said they would not accept if it was offered. The Warriors were stopped in their bid for a third straight championship by the Raptors this month.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quickly invited the Raptors, the first team outside the U.S. to win an NBA title, to Parliament Hill and appeared onstage with players and team officials during the victory rally last week in Toronto. Last week, Trump was asked during a meeting with Trudeau about inviting the Raptors to the White House and was noncommittal, although he said he’d watched some of the playoffs.
“They played phenomenal basketball,” Trump said. “I watched a little bit of it. They were really terrific. Congratulations, by the way. That was a great job by a great team. So we’ll think about that. If they’d like to do it, we’ll think about that.”
The White House had not responded to a request for further comment Sunday. It isn’t clear whether Green speaks for the entire team. Coach Nick Nurse was diplomatic when asked last week. “You know, we’re here. Let’s go see Trudeau up in Ottawa,” the first-year NBA head coach told Prime Time Sports, adding that details had not yet been formalized. “We’re Canada’s team.”
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