It all seems like a blur. Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Raptors last summer, integrated into the team a few months later, won them a Championship at season’s end, and then promptly left in the following weeks to join the L.A. Clippers.
Through it all, Kawhi was able to forge a lasting legacy in the franchise.
But what was it like to leave after everything that they had been through? In a revealing interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Raptors forward Pascal Siakam detailed how he found out about Kawhi’s departure.
“[Leonard] texted the group chat saying, ‘Yeah, I’m going home. I appreciate you guys and what we did was special.’ That’s how I found out,” Siakam said. “We all knew that he wanted to go home, for sure. But when we won the championship, we were like, ‘OK, there is a chance [he stays].’ I felt like there was a real chance after we won that maybe he would consider us more. But we all knew the way Kawhi is. Home was really important to him. I thought it could go either way. But I wasn’t surprised he went home.”
Clearly, Kawhi has tons of respect for his former Raptors teammates and wanted to make sure they knew where he was coming from before moving on. In hindsight, there is probably nothing they could have done to keep him around this season — but it doesn’t change what they were able to do with the time they had.