Will He Stay or Will He Go?
Source: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press
The "Fun Guy" Kawhi Leonard had a year in Toronto we will never forget. Not only did he win his second NBA Finals MVP, but brought the Larry O' Brien trophy to Canada for the first time in league history. In a few weeks Kawhi Leonard will be a free agent for the first time in his career and will have to decide if he’ll stay in the 6ix or go elsewhere. According Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, that the two teams that Kawhi is heavily considering in free agency is of course the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers. The question is though does Toronto have a shot at resigning Kawhi Leonard? They definitely do.
What reasons are there for Kawhi to leave and head back home to LA? His family and his daughter is obviously the biggest factor, Kawhi has family in California and being close to family is something that he really wants. Being around people that he's close with in his life makes a difference and we’ve seen instances where athletes picked being home rather than taking more money. Toronto Maples Leafs John Tavares picked his hometown team over the New York Islanders who offered more money, so it does happen. Also, the weather has to be a factor. Dealing with the nice sunny weather in Los Angeles compared to the brutal cold winter we have in Toronto, it could be something Leonard is thinking about. During the All-Star game Q and A's Kawhi wasn't too fond of the cold weather in Toronto. Being able to go the beach year round and wear shorts and t-shirts is a luxury he’ll have if he goes home.
The Clippers do have money to spend on one more than one superstar if they sign Kawhi in the summer. This could make them a contender in a wide open Western Conference. We should point out that they can't offer as much as the Raptors money wise, but they do have some advantages. Kawhi will be the number one man with the Clippers if he joins, just like he was with Toronto, it's a big reason why Kawhi isn't considering the Lakers because he doesn't want to be the second or third option on a team.
The Raptors and Kawhi have come a long way, and no doubt the Raptors can compete for the next few years if Kawhi stays. Toronto has done everything they can do to appease their superstar, whether its load management or the williness to take risks to improve the team. Toronto being able to give him max money should give the dinos a big advantage.
Kawhi is also a very private person. Toronto doesn't have that Hollywood exposure like LA does of course, and unlike Los Angeles, Kawhi's personal life would be better suited in Toronto. Movie stars and athletes are usually in the spotlight in LA and Kawhi is exactly the complete opposite of that lifestyle. Restaurants across the GTA have offered him free food for life if he stays in Toronto, so Kawhi can save money while going out with the family. Last month, CEO of the condo store realty Inc, Simon Mass offered a multi-million dollar penthouse in Toronto for free to Kawhi Leonard if he re-signs. Both are good incentives if he chooses to stay.
The Raptors fan base loves Kawhi Leonard. Not many athletes, especially in this day and age are as admired as Kawhi is in Toronto. During Monday's championship parade, it seemed like millions of fans were chanting stay, stay, stay, after Mayor John Tory gave Kawhi the key to the city. Kawhi not only gets love from a city but the entire country of Canada. If Kawhi leaves he won't get that same love in Los Angeles, especially while the Lakers are in town, they run the city of LA.
The Raptors will wait and see if Kawhi chooses them. If the Klaw chooses to leave Toronto after one year and head to the city of angels, it's still mission accomplished for the Raptors. As a fan, there will be slight disappointment yes, but Kawhi gave the city of Toronto an amazing year of basketball. The Raptors have the best shot at landing Kawhi Leonard and I think there's a good chance he stays in Toronto, a 2-3 year deal seems realistic for both sides. The money and the chance of winning another title favors Toronto over the Clippers. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he does leave and goes home where he's familiar with the people that know him best. There should be no ill will if Kawhi leaves just great memories that will last a lifetime.