Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 9 – Let’s stop with the insecurities

42 mins read
Source: The Ringer

Raptors drop to Spurs in summer league. Let’s not start with the insecurities. Was Kawhi really the King in the North?

He the North: Raptors Fans Reckon With Kawhi’s Exit – The Ringer

DeRozan’s willingness to open up about his struggles with depression won him respect around the league. It also made him a uniquely ideal face of the franchise in Toronto, where the fan base’s attitudes about their team have long been framed by a sort of free-floating anxiety and fear, as well as a suspicion that the world—referees, replay officials, pundits, Christmas Day schedule makers, Paul Pierce, whoever—is against them. One of the reasons that the 2014 “We the North” campaign was so successful was how it internalized and inverted the persecution complex nursed by Raptor fans, turning it from a source of shame into a point of pride. By doubling down on the geographic isolation of the league’s only Canadian franchise, “We the North” took all the things about Toronto that had been derided as liabilities in NBA circles—especially ex-players who’d talked shit about the city during their tenure, or on their way out the door—and turned them into things to cheer about. If there’s one thing that outsiders crave, it’s a sense of inclusivity, and the collectivist battle cry of “We the North” worked perfectly to galvanize the denizens of North America’s most diverse city. That the Raptors proved their legitimacy by heading Southwest—the direction of manifest destiny—and beating a California-based dynasty was the icing on the (funnel) cake: revenge, after all, is a dish best served cold.

Kawhi Leonard was the engine of that vengeance and now he’s gone—as gone as DeRozan, except by choice rather than by circumstance. In the end, the only difference between Leonard and the other stars who were emblematic of the Raptors also-ran status—your Tracy McGradys, your Vince Carters, your Chris Boshes—is that he got the job done while he was here.

That’s no small thing, and the general sentiment around these parts (starting with the Raptors’ official Twitter account) is that it’s more than enough—that even if the Fun Guy was only ever really a mercenary (Board Man Gets Paid), it was worth the cost. But even if I think that the idea that the Raptors’ championship deserves an asterisk because of the injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson is bullshit (show me a team that won a title without being the beneficiary at some good of good health and/or their opponents’ bad luck), I do think that Kawhi’s decision to run away rather than running it back will activate some of that old-fashioned Torontonian insecurity.

Raptors need to keep competing despite Kawhi Leonard’s exit

The dilemma
What complicates matters is the final-year contracts of Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and VanVleet which account for approximately $93 million coming off the books next season. Toronto just lost one transcendent star and one of the best 3-and-D players in the league without return. Such is life when you go all-in for a championship. Can Ujiri and co. suffer a similar fate a summer from now? Probably not for all four.

Ibaka looks the most likely to go as he transitions from championship worthy backup centre to overpaid backup on a respectable playoff team. Gasol’s player option at $25.6 million makes it quite possible he’s looked at as someone who provides negative asset return.

Lowry is the heart and soul of the franchise, and while Ujiri was willing to give that up for a generational talent before, there is no disgruntled star on the market at the minute and there’s unlikely to be one for a 33-year-old point guard unless it involves a premier young talent like Siakam in return.

If Lowry remains the incumbent in the starting point guard role, would VanVleet then look for opportunities elsewhere? If Lowry wants to leave, Is VanVleet an everyday starter and is he worth that kind of money?

Raptors didn’t lose in free agency, but Kawhi Leonard certainly won –

Yet I have to admit: Leonard looks a little less bold, in my mind, because of the fact it is now apparent that part of the delay in his decision-making stemmed from him wanting to give the Clippers time to work out a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George — a deal that will put this franchise on the back heel if, say, Leonard gets hurt. He also seems to have chatted up Kevin Durant. Come to think of it, isn’t what Leonard did in allegedly talking to George tampering?

Do I think less of Kawhi Leonard this morning? Yeah. A little. Just as the late Roy Halladay essentially forced the timing of his trade from the Toronto Blue Jays, something Doc’s myth-making buddies in the media conveniently overlooked.

The argument vis a vis Leonard’s legacy had he stayed with the Raptors is easier to make on this side of the border but, in truth, I’m not sure there’s much more he could do here. Burnish the NBA’s international foot-print? Help turn this into a basketball country? One’s already been done, the other’s well on its way to being accomplished. Win another title? Yeah, “running it back” is great for us but I’m not sure it’s seen that way by the chattering classes south of the border, who already seemed to be getting a little cranky about having to flash their passport to see the NBA champions. Americans don’t travel all that well anymore.

But here’s the thing: What if Kawhi doesn’t give a crap about his legacy? I’m betting he doesn’t care one way or another, and is more than happy to let the rest of us talk about it.

Board Man don’t care. Board Man don’t need to care.

Halifax’s Wigginton living a dream by playing in Raptors jersey | Toronto Sun

The Raptors brought some East Coast flavour to Summer League in the form of Dartmouth, N.S., native Lindell Wigginton.
The 21-year-old guard is playing for the team in the hopes of realizing his NBA dream, or at least starting off in the GTA with Raptors 905.
Wigginton went undrafted last month after two solid seasons at Iowa State. He also helped lead Canada to gold at the 2017 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Egypt.
Wigginton jumped at the chance to join the Raptors in Las Vegas. “Yeah, it was an easy call,” Wigginton said this week. “I met with them in mid-May and I had a pre-draft workout with them and it went great, the staff was really great, they had good talks to me. I kinda knew after that workout, if I didn’t get drafted I was gonna come here regardless. So it was just a good fit. I’m Canadian, the Raptors called, and I definitely couldn’t turn that down, and my agent definitely couldn’t turn it down, either,” he said.
He played his second game with the team on Monday night, after a tough, 1-for-7 shooting debut.
“It’s a dream come true. Not many people where I’m from get the opportunity, so I’ve gotta take full advantage of it,” Wigginton said.
Wigginton has impressed Raptors Summer League coach Jon Goodwillie.
“He’s a powerful player, he plays with great speed. Everything is speed with him. He cuts hard, he comes off ball screens hard, he zips passes to the weak side and he really moves fluidly and effortlessly on the floor, but powerfully as well,” Goodwillie said.
“He’s an interesting guy, because of some of the things he can do both on the offensive side of the floor and he’s not afraid to mix it up on defence and you know he’s a guard, he still likes to get in the mix and go in to rebound, so, that’s huge … Even if he’s not grabbing the rebound, he was going down and getting a body on the bigs and kind of limiting their rebounding space a little bit. He’s a nice contributor on the defensive end.”

Raptors rally late, unable to overcome large deficit in loss to Spurs in second Summer League outing – Raptors Republic

There was optimism that the Toronto Raptors would be able to iron out a few wrinkles ahead of their second game of the Summer League, yet that prove not to be the case as they fell 92-90  to the San Antonion Spurs on Monday evening at the Cox Pavilion. Despite mounting an impressive comeback in the fourth quarter, the Raptors couldn’t overcome their lackluster play in the opening half.
“It was more of an energy thing. I don’t think we played with enough energy. There were deflections but we weren’t getting on the ball to retrieve them,” said John Goodwillie. “We didn’t play hard enough for a decent stretch of the first half. Then in the second half we found a rhythm and found a way to get back into the game.”

The first quarter can really only be described as the Lonnie Walker IV show. The 18th pick in the 2018 draft came out simultaneously on fire but entirely composed. That is the very combination that indicates when a player is too good for Summer League. Walker dropped 13 of his 32 points in the opening period as the Raptors slipped to a 30-21 deficit.

The bleeding stopped briefly in the second quarter courtesy of back-to-back triples from Matt Morgan, who was playing his first Summer League minutes for the Raptors. In fact a few of players who were sparingly used in the first game made an impact in the second half; Jessie Govan had a quick offensive putback and Darius Thompson nailed a triple along with a smooth finish in transition. Although the ancillary pieces injected a brief spark, the starters looked overwhelmed as they succumbed to a constant barrage of Walker buckets.

The Raptors, champions yet pawns | BusinessWorld

In retrospect, there was nothing the Raptors could have done differently. It didn’t matter that they cultivated their relationship with him, that they took care of his body in a way not even the highly respected Spurs could, that they — and just about everyone else north of the border, really — treated him like royalty. Leonard was leaving, period. He was his famously quiet self, but others in his camp telegraphed his intentions clearly enough. Besides, the timing wasn’t right; he angled for the maximum contract possible, and the five-year, $190-million offer they had to put on the table eliminated any one-plus-one arrangements that could have coincided with the existing deals of other vital cogs.

The writing was on the wall. Why would Leonard eschew the opportunity to burn rubber close to sunny shorelines when re-upping with the Raptors for another half decade would mean just another year of contention? The likes of Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol were all on expiring deals. Nonetheless, they gamely made their presentation. By all accounts, it was nothing short of outstanding. And, by all accounts, it didn’t produce the desired effect. They got the impression that he had already made up his mind.

Perhaps Leonard didn’t have the heart to tell the Raptors they were a poor third early on. Perhaps he didn’t want to; he needed them to keep having a skin in the game because of their role as motivators on a deal he was pushing for. Like the Clippers, they knew he wanted to play with Paul George, thusly requiring them to reach out to the Thunder for the latter’s availability. Unlike the Clippers, they didn’t receive any assurance that netting the six-time All-Star would net him as well. And as the bidding war grew to ridiculous proportions, Ujiri had no choice but to pull out.

Letters to the editor: July 9: After Kawhi: Canada reflects. Plus other letters to the editor – The Globe and Mail

I am not sure if Mr. Leonard has demonstrated he is a brilliant strategist or he is just quiet and reserved by nature.

But he has helped to demonstrate how professional sports, like no other form of entertainment, is able to captivate and move masses of people to invest significant time, emotion and money toward the pursuit of sports titles. It puzzles me that fans (both long-term and recent converts) place such importance on outcomes that do nothing, except for short-term joy or anguish, to change their lives or the state of their communities. Are we to value our towns, cities, provinces and country based on the number of championships or medals we win?

A recent poll suggested most Canadians wouldn’t invest about $100 annually to help fight climate change. Yet we have witnessed far greater individual investment in the pursuit of professional sports titles. If only we could get people this enthused to invest in far more worthy recipients – matters that really do change lives. Combating climate change is one. Child abuse, racism, sexism, bullying and poverty are others. Fans, take your pick.

Mark Roberts, Gananoque, Ont.

After making Summer League debut with Nuggets, Terence Davis signs with Raptors – The Athletic

Following the Nuggets’ 84-79 win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday afternoon, Terence Davis and his agent, Adam Pensack, sat down to discuss Davis’ future. Davis had just put up 22 points in 26 minutes in a Summer League game against the Magic while Pensack spent the game talking with a half-dozen team officials about his undrafted player. Now it was time to go over the offers he had received.

“I told all of them if you let him play, meaning if you don’t do a deal with him before he plays, you’re potentially going to lose him. And that Sunday he played a game and boom, the deal was done.”

That deal is for two years with the Toronto Raptors, with a full guarantee in year one.

The contract was agreed to around 9 p.m. Sunday, and on Monday morning, Davis signed his contract in Las Vegas before flying to Toronto for his physical.

After losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the NBA champs lack depth at the wing position. But this also presented Davis with an attractive opportunity to get playing time.

The Raptors couldn’t comment on the deal, but Davis can be a contender for the backup shooting guard.

Making the NBA has been a lifelong goal for 22-year-old Davis, but it hasn’t been easy.

“I’ve been living this way all my life,” Davis said. “Overcoming adversity, being an underrated man, it’s nothing I haven’t overcome.”

NBA Free Agency 2019: What does Stanley Johnson bring to the Toronto Raptors? | Canada | The official site of the NBA

To understand what type of prospect the Raptors are getting in Johnson, there are two numbers you need to know: 11 and 98. The former is where Johnson ranked last season among small forwards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, a statistic created by ESPN that measures a player’s “estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance.” It’s not a perfect indicator of who the best defenders are at a particular position – Leonard ranking nearly 30 spots below Johnson on the season should make that clear – but it goes to show what the 23-year-old is capable of doing on that end of the floor.

In fact, Johnson’s defensive potential was one of the reasons the Detroit Pistons selected him with the No. 8 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, ahead of Myles Turner and Devin Booker. The combination of his size (6-foot-7 and 245 pounds) and length (7-foot wingspan) give him the tools match up with at least three positions, making him a perfect fit on a Raptors team that already has several switchable defenders in Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam.

The Raptors got a close look at Johnson’s versatility early last season when Dwane Casey, now the head coach of the Pistons, made his return to Toronto. According to, Johnson defended Leonard for a total of 17 possessions and limited him to two points on 1-for-3 shooting from the field. Johnson forced Leonard into committing five turnovers as well, all coming in the fourth quarter when the Pistons mounted a huge comeback that culminated in Reggie Bullock hitting the game-winner.

Persons of Interest: New Raptors Hollis-Jefferson, Johnson –

In his lone season at Arizona, Johnson won the Julius Erving award as the nation’s top small forward.

Coming out of college after his freshman season, Johnson drew comparisons to none other than Kawhi Leonard (and Ron Artest), and the Detroit Pistons were banking on him similarly developing his raw offensive game as he matured in the league. That never happened, and looking back, the Pistons clearly shot an air-ball drafting Johnson eighth overall.

Hollis-Jefferson, who hails from Chester, Pa., was also a McDonald’s All-American in high school. His skills were on clear display during his two seasons in Arizona — he could defend, was active on the floor and showed all the defensive potential in the world. But questions surrounding his inability to shoot from distance and his positional fit at the NBA level saw him fall to 23rd overall in 2015, 15 spots below Johnson.

To this point, however, Hollis-Jefferson has had a far more successful NBA career, carving out a spot as a valuable role player for the Brooklyn Nets, while Johnson has struggled to find his footing and failed to impress after being traded from Detroit to the New Orleans Pelicans last season. Both the Nets and Pelicans elected to let them walk this summer and enter free agency.

The Toronto Raptors are trying to maintain their defensive identity — but can it work? – Raptors HQ

By signing Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Ujiri and Webster have decided to double down on that strength. Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson are extremely unlikely to be key parts of even a slightly-above average offense, but both of them are big, intelligent and willing defenders. And both of them do it at the place of most importance in the modern NBA — on the wing.

Johnson is 6’7” with a 7-ft wingspan. Hollis-Jefferson is also 6’7” with a 7-2 wingspan. Defensive stats are messy and teammate dependent, but there is ample evidence that both are border-line elite defenders. Johnson has never posted a defensive rating worse than 105.2, with steal rates that are just shy of elite for a wing.

Hollis-Jefferson’s numbers, meanwhile, have been much more inconsistent, ranging from a high (bad) of 109.6 to a low (good) of 102.1, he’s also posted solid steal and block numbers in his career.

The problem is that while Hollis-Jefferson has enough off-the-bounce skills, and good enough cutting ability to post mediocre true shooting (TS%) numbers, Johnson has so far proven to be a complete and utter disaster on that end of the floor. He can’t shoot from anywhere, really, and his play-making is still mostly theoretical (although he was considered a decent play-maker for a wing out of college). Johnson is the sort of player opposing defenses ignore completely — and that’s in the regular season.

Raptors need to keep competing despite Kawhi Leonard’s exit

What complicates matters is the final-year contracts of Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and VanVleet which account for approximately $93 million coming off the books next season. Toronto just lost one transcendent star and one of the best 3-and-D players in the league without return. Such is life when you go all-in for a championship. Can Ujiri and co. suffer a similar fate a summer from now? Probably not for all four.

Ibaka looks the most likely to go as he transitions from championship worthy backup centre to overpaid backup on a respectable playoff team. Gasol’s player option at $25.6 million makes it quite possible he’s looked at as someone who provides negative asset return.

Lowry is the heart and soul of the franchise, and while Ujiri was willing to give that up for a generational talent before, there is no disgruntled star on the market at the minute and there’s unlikely to be one for a 33-year-old point guard unless it involves a premier young talent like Siakam in return.

If Lowry remains the incumbent in the starting point guard role, would VanVleet then look for opportunities elsewhere? If Lowry wants to leave, Is VanVleet an everyday starter and is he worth that kind of money?

Where do the Raptors go from here? Offseason moves should give us an idea – The Athletic

In preparing for possible Leonard scenarios, we looked fairly often at the Raptors’ cap sheet for 2020 and 2021. If Leonard stayed, the thinking went, the Raptors would need to find a way to quickly restock the roster for 2020-21 once the handful of large, expiring contracts came off the books. How they’d approach 2019-20, then, had to keep an eye on cap flexibility in 2020 as well as in 2021, when the Raptors’ cap sheet remains pretty clear and the free agent class is much more robust.

Leonard walking away makes those future cap projections look even cleaner, but it might make the thinking a little less straightforward. With Leonard, a win-now edict was mandatory. The Raptors now face at least a small transition period, one where they can remain competitive but are decidedly looking at a future title window rather than a current one. Look back to the cap sheet above, and 2020 remains very clear, with only Powell guaranteed money, plus a player option for Johnson and a team one on Anunoby. Siakam is extension eligible this summer and the team will probably want to retain VanVleet in free agency in 2020, but they’re still operating very lean.

Where Do The Clippers, Lakers, And Raptors Go After The Kawhi Saga?

The franchise is, nonetheless, at a crossroad. The Raptors have to make a decision: Is it worth running it back with a very solid but not title-worthy group, or should Toronto go into full asset-acquisition mode? If it’s the former, that’s easy enough, for one year at least. The question will likely drag out into the start of 2020, when decisions will have to be made as they near the trade deadline. Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet are all unrestricted free agents next offseason, and potentially losing all of those dudes and Leonard for nothing in a 12-month span would be, to put it delicately, less than ideal.

The latter would entail taking those first three guys and trying to get as much back as possible for them. That might be the case for VanVleet as well, but at 25, he is a potential building block for the organization going forward. Pascal Siakam, who is slated to become a restricted free agent next summer, seems like the most untouchable player on the roster. Our pal Blake Murphy over at The Athletic laid it all out last month, noting that regardless of Leonard, Siakam figures to be an important piece to the puzzle in Toronto in the future.

Siakam’s development and transformation into one of the league’s most unique talents should give the Raptors optimism going forward. The team is really good at identifying raw talent and molding young players, which could end up being a useful talent to possess if they decide to go young and place an emphasis on, say, getting OG Anunoby more time. Still, there would be something really strange about this path, because while it is the right move, can you envision Toronto, on opening night, celebrating a ring with Siakam, VanVleet, Nick Nurse, and a group that does not include any of the aforementioned players who helped bring a ring to the city?

Nick Nurse to debut as Canada’s men’s coach in Toronto with games against Nigeria | CTV News Toronto

Nick Nurse will make his Canadian basketball coaching debut at home next month as the men’s senior team hosts Nigeria in a two-game exhibition series ahead of the FIBA World Cup.

Basketball Canada announced Monday that the two-game series will take place Aug. 7 at Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto and Aug. 9 at Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place.

Nurse, who led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA Championship title less than a month ago in his first year behind the bench, was named head coach of Canada’s senior men’s team two weeks ago.

The 51-year-old Iowa native is tasked with trying to lead the men’s team to their first Olympics since 2000 when the FIBA Basketball World Cup starts Aug. 31 in China.

Canada would need a first- or second-place finish in the Americas zone at the World Cup to earn a direct berth into the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Nurse’s contract with Canada Basketball will take him through to the end of the Olympics.

Why Raptors fans are just fine to watch Kawhi Leonard go home –

The point is: Toronto sports fans tie themselves in knots over not winning, and treasure the big anniversaries (see the requisite Jays video tributes in 2002, 2003, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018 and counting). Nostalgia has come to drive fandom. Old-timers recall Bobby Baun’s broken-ankle goal in the 1964 Stanley Cup final. Millennials were only young kids when Joe Carter’s blast sealed back-to-back World Series wins. And those young kids were only a couple of years older when the Toronto Raptors first took the court in the same cavernous SkyDome.

After so many years of cheering on the Raptors and Leafs and Blue Jays for the sake of it, suddenly Toronto fans like me found ourselves in the middle of a sports renaissance—or so we all hoped. The Jays made the playoffs in 2015, and again in 2016. The Leafs were at least competitive again, even ascendent. The Raptors, after years of mediocrity, were winning division titles. Each team was labelled a consensus contender by talking heads. But they all lost. The Jays fizzled, the Leafs collapsed, and the Raptors—maybe the most talented of the bunch—kept hitting a wall named LeBron James.

Then Kawhi Leonard came to town last July. Leonard was swapped for DeMar DeRozan, exactly the kind of fan favourite who thrived in Toronto. DeRozan was drafted by the Raptors, easy to cheer for, talented and always improving, and he exuded a trait so familiar in this town: potential. Raptors mastermind Masai Ujiri made the trade, DeRozan was off to San Antonio, and the robotic enigma nicknamed The Klaw was a Raptor.

Toronto Strip Club Rescinds Offer of Free Lap Dances For Kawhi After He Signed With Clippers (PIC) | Total Pro Sports

Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors last offseason and changed the franchise forever as they became one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. He continued that greatness by advancing them to the NBA Finals and ultimately winning it all for the first time in franchise history.

The team, the fans, and even Drake, did all they could to make sure he would re-sign with the team and try for more titles.

That includes giving him free lap dances forever, which came from Toronto strip club, Zanzibar.

Following his decision to sign with the Clippers, the strip club made sure Kawhi knew that the offer was no longer on the table.

“No More Lap Dances For Kawhi.”

Kawhi Leonard’s Clippers to play NBA preseason game in Vancouver – Ceng News

The NBA will return to Vancouver this fall, but unlike past years, it doesn’t look like it will include the Toronto Raptors.

An NBA Canada email blast has informed fans that Kawhi Leonard’s new team, the Los Angeles Clippers, will play the Dallas Mavericks in a preseason game scheduled for October 17.

This will be the second straight year that Kawhi has visited Vancouver, as he made his preseason debut with the Raptors at Rogers Arena last year, against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jason Whitlock: Kawhi Leonard Knew the Raptors NBA Championship Was a Fluke | FOX Sports Radio

“Toronto got lucky winning the world championship and Kawhi Leonard will never say it but I think he knows they got lucky. It took a boat load of injuries for Golden State to lose that title and one of the greatest and luckiest shots in basketball history for Toronto to even get out of the second round and beat Philadelphia. Kawhi was smart enough to look around at that team in Toronto and think ‘man, run this back?? We can’t win another championship here!’”

Raptors Re-Sign Patrick McCaw | Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors announced Monday they have re-signed forward Patrick McCaw. Per team policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Patrick is a multi-dimensional player who brings a lot of skills to our team and can play a variety of positions,” said Raptors General Manager Bobby Webster. “We’re really glad to have him back.”

McCaw, 6-foot-7, 185 pounds, averaged 2.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 13.7 minutes in 29 games (one start) with Toronto and Cleveland last season. He shot .413 (26-63) from the field, including .321 (9-28) from three-point range. McCaw averaged 2.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 13.2 minutes in 26 contests with the Raptors after signing as a free agent Jan. 10.

In the postseason, McCaw made 11 appearances for Toronto and became the first player to win three consecutive NBA championships (2017-19) since Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (2000-02).

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, McCaw has posted career averages of 3.7 points, 1.5 rebounds and 15.5 minutes in 157 NBA games (31 starts) with Golden State, Cleveland and Toronto. He was picked in the second round (38th overall) by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2016 NBA Draft and traded to the Warriors on draft night.

McCaw played two collegiate seasons at UNLV (2014-16), averaging 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 31.7 minutes in 65 career contests (48 starts). As a sophomore, he was voted by the coaches to the MWC All-Defensive Team and All-MWC Second Team.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George pull off ultimate power move

Although the Thunder were interested in Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, the 2019 NBA Most Improved Player, sources said the champs weren’t so willing to give him up. The Clippers, meanwhile, had draft picks and interesting talent to offer.

ltimately, in order to make the pairing of Leonard and George a reality, the Clippers gave up budding point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, starting forward Danilo Gallinari and five — yes, five — first-round draft picks. Under the circumstances, George was able to help the Thunder restock for the future. The Raptors couldn’t compete with that offer. And, just like that, they had to say goodbye to the man who had led them to glory just weeks earlier.


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