SAN ANTONIO (Texas) • The San Antonio Spurs have shipped Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick, ending nearly seven months of off-court drama.
Leonard requested a trade after a meeting with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. His absence from the team became a point of consternation for Popovich and the Spurs, who did not have the All-Star forward on the floor for the final five months of the season because of a quadriceps injury.
"Kawhi obviously worked very hard to become the player he is. Our staff worked very hard to help him get there. We wish him all the best as he moves on to Toronto," Popovich said during a brief press conference on Wednesday. "With DeMar coming to San Antonio, I couldn't be happier. This trade is going to be good for both teams."
The Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers and others checked on Leonard's availability before Wednesday's trade, in which the Spurs were able to acquire another All-Star in DeRozan.
But ESPN and The Sporting News reported on Wednesday morning that Leonard has "no desire" to play in Toronto and could sit out, hoping to force another trade. Even if he relented and played, the Raptors are rolling the dice that Leonard is healthy and willing to re-sign to stay in Toronto beyond this season.
Leonard is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in July 2019. With him playing this season in Toronto, the Raptors would have the advantage of being able to pay US$49 million (S$67 million) more in a max deal than other suitors, such as the Lakers.
LA and other teams with cap space could offer four years at US$141 million; Toronto can reach five years and US$190 million.
DeRozan's immediate reaction - after reportedly being informed during a meeting with team officials that he would not be traded - was not positive. He has three years and US$83 million remaining on his contract. He wrote on his Instagram page on Wednesday: "Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can't trust em. Ain't no loyalty in this game..."
According to multiple reports, the first-rounder is protected if the Raptors pick anywhere from first to 20th next year. In 2020, the pick would become two second-round picks instead of a first-rounder.
Leonard spent his first seven seasons in the National Basketball Association with the Spurs, playing a total of 407 games and averaging 16.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Green, a three-point specialist, joined San Antonio in 2010 and averaged 9.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 520 games.