Kawhi Leonard just finished playing a game in San Antonio on Jan. 3. Eighteen months ago, that wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary.
But he just did it as a member of another team for the first time, and it was a strange sight. Leonard’s new team, the Toronto Raptors, returned to San Antonio for the first time since he and Danny Green were traded for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick. There were lots of boos and shouts of “TRAITOR,” but there was also a warm embrace with Gregg Popovich.
Both parties are doing fine apart — Leonard has led Toronto to the best record in the East, while San Antonio has recovered nicely after a shaky start to the season — but they were once poised to do so much more together. During his time with the Spurs, Leonard grew from mid first-round pick to Finals MVP to arguably the best two-way player in the game. He seemed like the heir to Tim Duncan’s throne.
And then the 2017-18 season happened. A mysterious quad injury led to a rift between Leonard and the organization that never came close to being repaired. Instead, Kawhi asked out with a year left on his contract, and the hamstrung Spurs acquiesced to his wishes instead of risking him leaving for no return.
A lot happened to lead to that surprising conclusion. Follow along for all the updates and in-the-moment commentary as it happened, and check out Pounding the Rock’s Summer Of Kawhi section for even more.