Kawhi Leonard on facing Spurs Thursday: ‘It’s going to be fun’
Kawhi Leonard will pay his first visit to San Antonio on Thursday night since an ugly split with the Spurs last season led to his trade to the Toronto Raptors.
Leonard, one of the more understated NBA superstars, not surprisingly did not provide any so-called bulletin board material heading into Thursday’s matchup, instead opting to take on a more diplomatic stance.
#Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard asked about #Spurs game on Thursday…”it’s going to be fun, everybody is anticipating the game”…Sounds as if Leonard plans to play against his former team #NBA #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/IKa3DqceuE— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) January 2, 2019
“It’s going to be fun,” Leonard said in a postgame interview with Sportsnet’s Eric Smith following a 122-116 victory over the Utah Jazz. “Everybody’s anticipating the game. Things like that only get me better for the long run, so it’s going to be a good game.”
To say Leonard left San Antonio on bad terms would be an understatement. A nagging quad injury limited the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and 2014 NBA Finals MVP to only nine games last season.
The injury, not to mention a growing disconnect between the star player and the team, fostered a toxic environment that led to the complete and utter breakdown in the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs.
The seemingly passive-aggressive manner in which the Spurs sent Leonard packing — which was followed by Gregg Popovich saying he was “couldn’t be happier” with the trade — certainly lends to the notion that the organization was extremely disappointed with how Leonard conducted himself during the 2017-18 campaign.
All that said, the assumption is that Pop and the Spurs will similarly downplay Leonard’s return. How Spurs fans inside AT&T Center choose to welcome back their onetime superstar, however, is another matter entirely.