The Kawhi Leonard saga in San Antonio is finally over. So is DeMar DeRozan’s time in Toronto.
An NBA summer blockbuster got pulled off Wednesday, with the Spurs sending Leonard to the Raptors — weeks after the disgruntled 2014 NBA Finals MVP asked for a trade — as part of a deal that also has DeRozan leaving Toronto for San Antonio. The Spurs also got Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 protected first-round draft pick, while the Raptors acquired Danny Green.
For Leonard and the Spurs, there’s finally closure to a relationship that obviously was fractured beyond repair and devolved into a soap opera as the season went along. For DeRozan, who has often professed his love for Toronto, the initial reaction seemed to be one of anger and frustration.
“Ain’t no loyalty in this game,” DeRozan wrote in an Instagram story that appeared in the wee hours of Wednesday, around the time that ESPN and Yahoo Sports reported that the trade was approaching the imminent stage. “Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing ... .”
DeRozan did not specifically reference the trade in that post. But his message didn’t exactly need translation.
The trade is a huge, and potentially risky, move for both teams.
Leonard appeared in only nine games for the Spurs last season because of a somewhat mysterious right leg injury — and the level of severity was something that even some of his now-former teammates reportedly questioned last season while San Antonio was trying to qualify for the Western Conference playoffs. Leonard’s health status, even now, is publicly unknown.
Plus, he can be a free agent next summer. When he asked the Spurs for a trade weeks ago, it was made clear that he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. That means the Raptors are entering into this deal knowing that they could have given up a star like DeRozan for someone who might not be in Toronto for long.
DeRozan has led the Raptors in scoring in each of the last five seasons. He was key to Toronto winning 59 games and securing the No. 1 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs last season. But after getting swept in the second round by Cleveland, the Raptors decided massive changes were necessary — first the firing of coach of the year Dwane Casey, and now the trading of a perennial All-Star who once famously declared “I am Toronto.”
Leonard’s injury last season was described as right quadriceps tendinopathy, and the Spurs listed him as out on their injury reports for much of the year, citing “injury management.” During the 2016-17 season, he averaged a career-best 25.5 points and was third in the MVP voting.
Both DeRozan and Leonard are scheduled to appear in Las Vegas next week at a USA Basketball training camp — one that will be led by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.