At long last, Kawhi Leonard has been spotted in Toronto.
In a Raptors jersey. And smiling!
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After two months of high anticipation, the Raptors officially introduced Leonard and Danny Green Monday morning as part of their media day, and there’s a lot for fans to be excited about.
It’s well known across the NBA that you never know how much Kawhi is going to say when he is placed in front of a camera or microphone. But no one expected the reserved superstar to begin the press conference by cracking jokes with the media.
When asked by a reporter how he would describe himself to the fans of Toronto Leonard began giving a standard answer saying: “I’m a fun guy. Obviously, I love the game of basketball,” and that “there’s just more questions you have to ask me in order for me to tell you about myself. I can’t just give you a whole spiel.”
But while he was answering he couldn’t quite pinpoint where the question came from and ended his answer with “I don’t even know where you’re sitting at,” which managed not only laughs from the people in attendance but with Leonard himself.
“He’s a fun guy, but you have to know him and be around him,” Green added. “His main focus is basketball. He puts in hours and puts the work in. You have to, to be as good as he is.”
Green continued with the jokes later on in the press conference. When he received his first question he perked up saying, “Ah, you included me, okay!” Then when he was asked about what sold him to Toronto Green replied “The OVO jerseys, that’s what sold me.”
All jokes aside Leonard revealed to the media how he plans to approach this season and what the city of Toronto can expect now that he’s officially a Raptor.
One of the biggest questions fans wanted to hear Leonard answer was about how committed he is to the team and if he wanted to be play for the Raptors this season. Leonard put those concerns to rest by saying that he is looking forward to starting the season in Toronto.
“I want to be here,” Leonard said in his usual calm demeanour.
“I’m excited, knowing that I’m coming to a city that loves basketball. It’s a great organization and I was happy Danny was coming with me.”
Leonard, like his friend and teammate Green, expressed how he is looking forward to getting acclimated to his new home this season.
“I’m excited about the city,” he said. “Their fans come out and show a lot of energy.”
The other thing fans have been trying to decipher is if Leonard is willing to stay long term with the Raptors by signing an extension. When asked about his plans for the future, the 27-year-old said that he is taking a day-by-day approach to the upcoming season.
“My focus is on this year, striving to win a championship,” said Leonard. “If you look over the future, you are going to trip over the present.”
Not only is Leonard committed to playing for the Raptors this season, now that he’s completely healthy, he has his eyes set on not only regular season success, but leading the team to its first ever NBA Finals appearance.
“I want to play a long healthy career. I want to be dominant wherever I land and that’s about it,” said Leonard. “I want to win championships and get in those record books.”
“I want to play here,” he added. “As long as I have a jersey on, I want to play basketball. I came here with an open mind. I want to do great things. I’m going to make sure that I put my all of my effort on the court each night and by winning games this is how you get star-calibre players to play here.”
There’s always been a lingering stigma that elite NBA talent will never come to Toronto long term and that’s something that Raptors president Masai Ujiri wants to end with the addition of Leonard.
“The narrative of not wanting to come to this city is gone,” Ujiri said. “I think that’s old and we should move past that. Believe in this city. Believe in yourselves.”
Raptors fans could get their first look at Leonard on the court this Saturday as the team kicks off its preseason schedule against the Portland Trail Blazers in Vancouver.