Jeff Vinnick photographs
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — maybe Kawhi Leonard imagined he would be wearing red and gold at this point, perhaps alongside the game’s most suitable participant. Or red and blue, if best Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers had conjured up the right equipment to alternate for him.
It turned into l. a. or nothing.
but selection and fact seldom mesh in the world of knowledgeable basketball. On Saturday, Leonard changed into nowhere close Southern California. rather, he turned into in Vancouver, making his preseason debut with his new crew, the Toronto Raptors.
New uniform, new country, equal Kawhi.
In his debut, Leonard finished with 12 features, one rebound, three assists and one remove in 19 minutes all over Toronto’s 122-104 buy over the Portland path Blazers. the majority of that came in a particularly productive first half.
however perhaps transient—it is no secret Leonard is an unrestricted free agent after this season and has longed to play in his homeland of L.A.—here is the clean commence that both Toronto and the 2014 Finals MVP essential.
Toronto is coming off a disastrous postseason, getting swept by way of the Cavaliers in the second circular regardless of possessing the choicest standard-season checklist within the East.
Leonard, even so, is not most effective getting back http://mc88bet.com/ from a quad harm—one which sidelined him for many of closing season—but additionally a PR catastrophe over the summer season. After his bizarre disappearing act that resulted in a really public divorce from San Antonio, all eyes may be on each his play and commitment to his new squad.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed.”I don’t consider Kawhi has the rest to prove to the Raptors per se,” NBA tv analyst Stu Jackson observed. “Kawhi needs to show extra to himself, when it comes to having self belief that he’s healthy. If he is in shape, then he just needs to be himself and do what he does most reliable, and he’ll be a very good asset to Toronto.”
Ninety minutes earlier than the Saturday matinee, the anticipation from the Canadian contingent changed into apparent. Vancouver has lengthy been a 2nd home for Raptors nation, hosting bought-out exhibition video games very nearly yearly.
A sea of purple Raptors apparel dominated the stands—lots of that have been freshly purchased No. 2 jerseys. The capacity crowd internal Rogers arena cheered him in the layup line, and the deafening roars and standing ovation during his introduction were the loudest of the nighttime.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed.”there may be a lot of power; I consider the fans are death to look him once more after essentially a year,” fan and Vancouver resident Lawrence Chan stated.
In his first NBA game on the grounds that Jan. 13, Leonard gave the look of his typical poised self in the video game’s opening quarter, patiently deciding upon his spots and moving the ball. however mildly rusty, scuffling with his leap shot early 0-of-four on threes, 6-of-eleven on the line within the first half, he drew oohs from the viewers late in the 2nd quarter after hitting Portland’s Caleb Swanigan with a step-back dribble earlier than draining a long two.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,Yeah, it be going to engage time to get my rhythm,” Leonard informed newshounds after the online game. “however I felt exquisite being out there being capable of compete like I said earlier than, just having fun.”
Defensively, Leonard didn’t miss a beat. looking in out of the ordinary actual form, he was quick to react to monitors and get rid of using lanes together with his help-aspect defense. His late second-quarter catch off a Blazers circulate resulted in a quick damage the place he become fouled.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,You comprehend what i like is every now after which he simply ducks into the lane and takes the ball and simply lays it in,” new Raptors head instruct Nick Nurse pointed out. “these are such large plays within the game.”
whereas it is too early to judge the chemistry between the Raptors’ new one-two punch of Kyle Lowry and Leonard, they appeared in sync on several plays, including a smartly-carried out, speedy damage again-and-forth exchange.
Like many of the starters on each squads, Leonard watched the second half, stoically sitting on the bench. fingers crossed, he infrequently stood up, now and again clapping or speaking to his new teammates.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,he’s a really quiet man,” Raptors play-by using-play announcer Jack Armstrong stated. “if you are seeking him to be the vocal man or the face of the crew and all that stuff, it truly is not his style.”
His low-key nature makes him a mystery even compared to the still celebrity he’s replacing in Toronto. outdoor of maybe Vince Carter, DeMar DeRozan is the most loved Raptor in heritage. not like many NBA players, he embraced Canada, opting to re-signal at each of his free-company crossroads. In Vancouver, DeRozan jerseys have been nonetheless essentially the most familiar option.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,I didn’t just like the trade,” Raptors fan and Vancouver resident Anthony Foster observed. “Kawhi is a pretty good participant, no doubt about it. but when he’s a one-and-achieved, we simply wasted all those years on setting up a extremely good player in DeMar.”
As controversial as trading their franchise participant for a potential one-year apartment with questionable health in Leonard is, enthusiasts understand the gamble President Masai Ujiri made could ultimately get Toronto over the hump—above all in the LeBron James-less East.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed.”on the end of the day, it’s a basketball choice. Kawhi has an potential to prefer us to a different stage,” talked about Chan, who changed into wearing a DeRozan jersey.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed.”people are in fact fired up about it. individuals respect he gives the Raptors probably their ultimate possibility to get to the NBA Finals given that 2001, with Vince Carter losing to Allen Iverson and the Sixers in the conference semifinals,” Armstrong added.
After the game, Leonard scrolled through his mobile, leaving a hoard of hovering Canadian media anxiously ready. He showered after which briefly addressed reporters with uninspiring, single-sentence solutions earlier than disappearing. This time, there become no awkward snigger like on media day. The historical Kawhi is again after a nine-month hiatus, and he’s able to do something about enterprise.
Will he and Lowry thrive together? Will he acquire the Raptors to their first Finals? Will he reside or go next summer season? There could be 1,000,000 questions between now and July 1.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,or not it’s a really glowing line,” Jackson noted. “possibly he is the change-maker, however we simply have no idea yet.”