Thank You, Kawhi

It’s okay. Take a deep breath. Don’t panic. There is no need to panic.

At 1:54AM ET this morning, it was announced that Kawhi Leonard is joining the Los Angeles Clippers. About a minute later, we found out that Paul George was being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, to join Kawhi in LA.

What the hell is happening?

I looked at my Twitter feed and thought it was a joke. Forget the Kawhi to LA thing, that didn’t even matter to me anymore. When in the world did Paul George become apart of this?

The NBA remains undefeated in off-season chaos and post-midnight announcements. Thou shalt not go to bed early when NBA free agency is in full swing.

Like most Raptors fans/Canadians/NBA fans, I’ve been on Kawhi Watch for the last week. It has been a rollercoaster. Nay, scratch that. It has not been a rollercoaster.

It has been a private jet ride. Literally.

THERE WERE PEOPLE TRACKING A PRIVATE JET, WONDERING IF KAWHI WAS ON IT.

The Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment jet flew to LAX on Wednesday, picked some people up, and flew back to Toronto. Waiting in Toronto at the airport, was a local news helicopter, broadcasting a live feed of whomever got off the plane.

Footage was inconclusive, so we had to revert to the call on the court, which was it was definitely Kawhi Leonard and his representatives.

And then, the news helicopter followed two black SUVs around Toronto. If Kawhi came back, he would’ve ask for a restraining order.

It was the OJ chase, minus the white bronco, and a million other small details, but it was the OJ chase. Crazy. And all the while, the reporters on the broadcast were saying how Kawhi likes his privacy and probably wants to be left alone.

YOU’RE LITERALLY THE ONLY ONES FILMING HIM AS HE NAVIGATES THROUGH TORONTO.

The media is so hypocritical, but they make it sound like everyone else is.

So, as we were tracking flight patterns, or speculating as to why the MLSE jet flew to San Diego yesterday, we were trying not to listen to all the talking heads of the American media who had no clue what was going on, but get paid per word, so they had to say something.

Reporting is dead.

Sources are liars.

Unless it’s official, I don’t believe a thing anyone says anymore.

In the end, I’m okay that Kawhi isn’t coming back to Toronto. I’ve been okay with it since the moment he got here, actually. I trust the Raptors front office no matter what hand they’re dealt.

The fact that Kawhi helped bring us a championship makes this even easier for me. He gave me so many memories that will stay with me forever.

The Raptors won the NBA championship. I got to witness it. I never thought that was possible.

He could’ve come to Toronto last year and said, “You know what, I’m not going to try too hard, I want to stay healthy, and then leave.” He didn’t do that. He gave us everything.

People talk about his “load management” as if he was soft and didn’t want to play. I always felt like most people were missing the point of it. To me, it was always, “If he sits out these games, there’s a 0% chance he gets hurt in them.”

The whole purpose of the regular season was to get him to the playoffs in one piece.

I can’t be mad at him for leaving. He turned a Toronto team into a champion. That will never be taken away from us.

There was talk about OKC trying to trade Paul George and Russell Westbrook to Toronto for a package surrounded around Pascal Siakam and a bunch of draft picks.

I’m so glad we didn’t make that trade. The Clippers had to give up 7 draft picks, Danilo Galinari, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, just to get George.

The Raptors would’ve had to give up more for both of them, no? Like a decades worth of assets.

Westbrook has already proven to be great at stuffing the stat sheet, but unable to win when it matters. And although George is a great player, if I’m the Raptors, I’m not hitching my wagon to him and Kawhi, knowing both players have already missed a full season due to injury.

The Raptors make smart trades. They don’t just fold under pressure and ship out a bunch of assets because another team is demanding them.

This team doesn’t need to go “all in”. They just won a championship! Plus, they’ve become really good at drafting and developing their own players.

They are not desperate and don’t need an immediate, quick fix like most teams in the league.

I trust Masai Ujiri and the rest of the front office to build this thing back up and make bold moves when they need to.

I said in a blog post a few months ago that if Kawhi leaves for the Clippers, I hope we can get Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back via trade. I think he’s going to be a star. And he’s Canadian, so that doesn’t hurt.

OKC ended up with him; I like that for them.

I’m actual excited for what Kawhi’s departure means for the Raptors. Maybe that’s silly.

Danny Green has moved on to the Lakers, which is understandable. He gets to team up with his old Cavalier teammate, LeBron James. Green was great for this team and was everything they needed.

Also seeing that DeMarcus Cousins is headed to the Lakers, as well. He gets to team up with Anthony Davis again. What a reunion.

As of right now, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby move into the starting lineup and I’m excited about it. I think OG has so much untapped potential. If Kawhi came back, I don’t know if we ever see everything he’s capable of.

Same goes for Powell. Let’s see what they can do as starters. Maybe they each take the next step, like Siakam did.

And I’m just seeing we signed Stanley Johnson, which is a move I really like. He’s a good defender, but still needs to develop his shot – which the Raptors staff is really good at helping players with. See: Siakam, Powell…

This is still a really good team. Are they going to win the championship next season? As currently constructed, probably not. Just being honest.

Everything they learned from Danny and Kawhi, and all the experience they gained in the playoffs, will only help them going forward.

Next season seems to be about, “Let’s see what our young guys can become” and then if you have to trade a Lowry, Ibaka, or Gasol, you do it, and move on with the youth.

No matter what happens, the Raptors will be okay. This isn’t a team that will fall apart just because their best player left.

Don’t get caught up in watching all the superstars jump from team to team. People fall for it every year. A lot of those players get a lot of praise and have never won anything.

The Raptors organization knows what it’s doing and will not be crippled by Kawhi’s departure. Is it setback? Obviously. But it’s not a fatal blow.

And for everything Kawhi helped us achieve on the court this season, he and the rest of the team inspired a bunch of kids to pick up a basketball this summer, which only bodes well for the future of the sport in Canada.

Hey, maybe this is just another step in squashing the whole, “No one wants to play here” narrative which will officially be dead when the NBA is full of Canadians who want nothing more than to play in Toronto.

That day is coming, trust me. So is a team in Vancouver.

Thank you, Kawhi, for everything you brought to Toronto and Canada. Thank you for the laughs, the shot, the championship, and for being a fun guy. I’ll never forget this season.

You had the chance to go home and you did.

I just hope Clippers’ fans get you a Kawhactus. I hear it makes a nice house warming gift.

Aha ha ha ha.

About Paul

I think of my blog as an all-you-can-read buffet. There's something for everyone and complimentary mints at the door as you leave.
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5 Responses to Thank You, Kawhi

  1. Barb Knowles says:

    As you know, I LOVE your sports posts. But what about Paul George. What’s his history?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      He tore his achilles a few years ago (which is becoming more common among NBA players) and missed an entire year. I also think I heard he’s had shoulder surgery this summer, so…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dutch Lion says:

    What a great Kawhi! (guy) Hey Paul, I thought the video was gonna be set to Skid Row’s “I Remember You” rather than Sarah McLachlan.

    Liked by 1 person

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