Leonard thanks Spurs in his first com­ments since trade to Toronto

The Western Star - - SPORTS -

Kawhi Leonard thanks the Spurs’ fans and or­ga­ni­za­tion and said he is look­ing for­ward to the “next chap­ter” in his NBA ca­reer in his first com­ments since be­ing traded form San An­to­nio to Toronto this sum­mer.

In a let­ter sub­mit­ted to the San An­to­nio Ex­press-News, the su­per­star for­ward did not men­tion the Rap­tors and still has yet to share his thoughts on the city where he is set to spend his 2018-19 sea­son.

Leonard sin­gled out Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in the let­ter, say­ing “I’ll al­ways be grate­ful for my growth un­der your guid­ance.”

Popovich and Leonard ap­peared to have a frac­tured re­la­tion­ship at times dur­ing the Leonard’s fi­nal year in San An­to­nio, when the dis­grun­tled for­ward suited up for just nine games due to in­jury.

Leonard was ef­fu­sive in his praise of the Spurs’ fans, who watched him blos­som into one of the game’s premier two-way play­ers over the first seven sea­sons of his ca­reer.

“There is not a more pas­sion­ate or ded­i­cated fan base than what I’ve wit­nessed in San An­to­nio. Through all the ups and downs - I’m glad there were many more ups! -I’ll never for­get what we have shared and ac­com­plished to­gether,” he said.

While last sea­son was one to for­get for Leonard, his time in San An­to­nio will be bet­ter de­fined by his 2013-14 cam­paign, when he helped the Spurs cap­ture their fifth NBA ti­tle while be­ing named MVP of the Fi­nals.

Toronto ac­quired Leonard guard Danny Green in a block­buster trade on July 18 that sent DeMar DeRozan - who was the pop­u­lar face of the Rap­tors fran­chise - as well as emerg­ing cen­tre Jakob Poeltl and a pro­tected 2019 first-round draft pick to Texas.

While Leonard rarely speaks pub­licly on his in­ten­tions, the be­lief among most pun­dits is that he wants to join the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers. He will have the abil­ity to do so when he be­comes an un­re­stricted free agent af­ter this sea­son, un­less the Rap­tors can sell him on a long-term fu­ture in Toronto.

CP PHOTO

San An­to­nio Spurs for­ward Kawhi Leonard talks with coach Gregg Popovich dur­ing NBA ac­tion in San An­to­nio in 2016.

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