After a dramatic exit from the Spurs called into question his loyalty and love for the game, Kawhi Leonard was sent to Toronto with a bruised and battered legacy.
He had forced his way out of a historically great franchise and was seen as a quitter by most in the community. With only one year left on his deal, many weren’t sure how long he’d stick around in Toronto, or if his mind would ever truly be with the team at all.
He would end up departing for the Clippers after one season, but not before helping them earn the first Championship in franchise history. And, according to Raptors coach Nick Nurse, his mind was focused on the prize all season long.
“They were just things about getting to know his makeup,” said Nurse. “I just thought it was really interesting how he always talked about, all he really cared about, was playing, staying healthy, playing for a long time, and winning.”
“We’d have conversations where I was like, ‘You could’ve had 40 last night,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t care about that. He goes, ‘Coach, we gotta get the win, we gotta get better, and it’s a good team and that’s all I’m about.’”
Indeed, that mindset seems to have paid off for both Kawhi and the Raptors. They went on to beat the Warriors in the 2019 Finals, besting the 2x Defending Champs in 6 games.
With the Clippers, that same winning spirit is still active and at work for him and his team. We will see if it reaps the same result.