07/18 14:38 CDT Done deal: Leonard goes to Raptors, DeRozan goes to Spurs
Done deal: Leonard goes to Raptors, DeRozan goes to Spurs
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
The Kawhi Leonard saga in San Antonio is over. So is DeMar DeRozan's time in
An NBA summer blockbuster got pulled off Wednesday, with the Spurs sending
Leonard to the Raptors as part of a four-player deal that has DeRozan heading
to San Antonio. The Spurs also got center Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 protected
first-round draft pick, while the Raptors acquired sharpshooter Danny Green.
For Leonard and the Spurs, there's finally closure to a relationship that
seemed fractured beyond repair and played out like a soap opera as the season
went along. But in the end, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich --- insisting that
looking back at what happened would not be worth his time, and that Leonard was
a good teammate throughout his tenure in San Antonio --- simply said he hopes
the move works out for everyone involved.
"Kawhi, obviously, worked very hard to become the player he is," Popovich said
in San Antonio, a couple of hours after the trade became official when the
teams got approval on the terms from the NBA. "Our staff worked very hard to
help him get there. We wish him all the best as he moves on to Toronto. I think
he's going to be great."
Leonard was the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and had been with the Spurs for seven
seasons, averaging 16.3 points, though was limited to just nine games last
season because of a leg injury. DeRozan has been in the league for nine years,
all of them with Toronto, and is a career 19.7 point-per-game scorer.
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."
DeRozan's 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, several
hours before it was finalized. "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. Raptors president Masai Ujiri has been
traveling in Africa and was not immediately available for comment.
Not only is the trade huge, it's potentially risky for both teams.
Leonard hasn't played since January because of the somewhat mysterious right
quadriceps 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. The Raptors clearly
aren't worried about Leonard's status, and Popovich indicated Wednesday that
Leonard has recovered sufficiently enough to play.
During the 2016-17 season, he averaged a career-best 25.5 points and was third
in the MVP voting. When healthy, there may be no better two-way player in the
And that makes him worth the risk for Toronto.
Leonard 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
--- a team that landed LeBron James earlier this month to lead their planned
rebuild back into a contender. 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.
Popovich and Leonard met last month, but nothing the Spurs could say apparently
changed Leonard's mind about wanting a trade.
"Attempts were made to see what would be best, and in the end this trade
appeared," Popovich said. "We felt that this was the way to go."
DeRozan and Leonard are expected to be on the court together next week in Las
Vegas when USA Basketball convenes a national team training camp.
That team's coach? Gregg Popovich.
"I look forward to it," Popovich said.
Green, a career 40 percent shooter from 3-point range, said he wanted to thank
Popovich and Spurs general manager R.C. Buford for what they've done for him
over the years.
"I have many great memories that I will take with me," Green said in an
Instagram post. "Through the ups and downs you've always made me feel SPECIAL.
I want to personally thank Pop and RC for being the first to believe in me and
give me the opportunity."
Poeltl has been a backup for his two NBA seasons, though is a 64 percent
shooter so far in his young career.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball