Jeff Vinnick photographs
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — probably Kawhi Leonard imagined he would be wearing red and gold at this element, maybe alongside the online game’s most excellent player. Or pink and blue, if best Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers had conjured up the correct equipment to change for him.
It turned into los angeles or nothing.
however choice and truth seldom mesh on this planet of skilled basketball. On Saturday, Leonard was nowhere near Southern California. quite, he changed into in Vancouver, making his https://happybet188.co preseason debut along with his new group, the Toronto Raptors.
New uniform, new country, identical Kawhi.
In his debut, Leonard complete with 12 points, one rebound, three assists and one occupy in 19 minutes throughout Toronto’s 122-104 recall over the Portland trail Blazers. the majority of that came in a tremendously productive first half.
although possibly temporary—it is not any secret Leonard is an unrestricted free agent after this season and has longed to play in his place of origin of L.A.—here is the fresh initiate that both Toronto and the 2014 Finals MVP needed.
Toronto is coming off a disastrous postseason, getting swept by way of the Cavaliers in the second round despite possessing the ultimate ordinary-season listing in the East.
Leonard, in spite of this, isn’t handiest getting back from a quad injury—one that sidelined him for many of remaining season—but additionally a PR disaster over the summer time. After his weird disappearing act that resulted in a really public divorce from San Antonio, all eyes may be on both his play and dedication to his new squad.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed.”I don’t think Kawhi has anything else to show to the Raptors per se,” NBA tv analyst Stu Jackson noted. “Kawhi needs to prove more to himself, when it comes to having self belief that he is in shape. If he’s match, then he just needs to be himself and do what he does ideal, and he’ll be a good asset to Toronto.”
Ninety minutes earlier than the Saturday matinee, the anticipation from the Canadian contingent changed into obvious. Vancouver has lengthy been a 2nd domestic for Raptors nation, hosting sold-out exhibition games well-nigh each year.
A sea of red Raptors apparel dominated the stands—many of that have been freshly bought No. 2 jerseys. The capability crowd inside Rogers arena cheered him in the layup line, and the deafening roars and standing ovation during his introduction had been the loudest of the night.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,there is lots of energy; I believe the enthusiasts are demise to see him once more after almost a year,” fan and Vancouver resident Lawrence Chan spoke of.
In his first NBA game given that Jan. 13, Leonard gave the impression of his typical poised self in the online game’s opening quarter, patiently making a choice on his spots and relocating the ball. besides the fact that children mildly rusty, battling his soar shot early 0-of-four on threes, 6-of-eleven at the line within the first half, he drew oohs from the audience late within the 2nd quarter after hitting Portland’s Caleb Swanigan with a step-lower back dribble before draining a long two.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,Yeah, or not it’s going to take time to get my rhythm,” Leonard advised newshounds after the video game. “however I felt high-quality being accessible being capable of compete like I said earlier than, just having enjoyable.”
Defensively, Leonard did not omit a beat. searching in phenomenal physical shape, he changed into short to react to monitors and eliminate riding lanes with his aid-side defense. His late second-quarter win off a Blazers circulate led to a quick smash where he become fouled.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,You recognize 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 teach Nick Nurse stated. “those are such big performs in the video game.”
while it is simply too early to choose the chemistry between the Raptors’ new one-two punch of Kyle Lowry and Leonard, they seemed in sync on several plays, together with a neatly-accomplished, fast damage back-and-forth alternate.
Like lots of the starters on each squads, Leonard watched the second half, stoically sitting on the bench. hands crossed, he infrequently stood up, now and again clapping or speaking to his new teammates.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,he is a extremely collected guy,” Raptors play-by using-play announcer Jack Armstrong said. “if you are seeking him to be the vocal man or the face of the team and all that stuff, it truly is no longer his trend.”
His low-key nature makes him a secret even in comparison to the detached celebrity he’s changing in Toronto. backyard of perhaps Vince Carter, DeMar DeRozan is the most beloved Raptor in historical past. not like many NBA gamers, he embraced Canada, opting to re-sign at each and every of his free-company crossroads. In Vancouver, DeRozan jerseys have been nevertheless essentially the most common choice.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,I did not just like the trade,” Raptors fan and Vancouver resident Anthony Foster stated. “Kawhi is a fine player, little question about it. but when he’s a one-and-done, we simply wasted all those years on developing a very good player in DeMar.”
As controversial as buying and selling their franchise participant for a possible one-year rental with questionable health in Leonard is, enthusiasts realize the gamble President Masai Ujiri made could finally get Toronto over the hump—in particular within the LeBron James-less East.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,on the conclusion of the day, it’s a basketball decision. Kawhi has an capacity to purchase us to a unique degree,” spoke of Chan, who was wearing a DeRozan jersey.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed.”americans are definitely fired up about it. individuals admire he offers the Raptors doubtless their most desirable opportunity to get to the NBA Finals for the reason that 2001, with Vince Carter dropping to Allen Iverson and the Sixers in the conference semifinals,” Armstrong delivered.
After the video game, Leonard scrolled via his phone, leaving a hoard of hovering Canadian media anxiously ready. He showered after which in brief addressed newshounds with uninspiring, single-sentence answers earlier than disappearing. This time, there become no awkward snort like on media day. The old Kawhi is back after a 9-month hiatus, and he’s ready to cope with business.
Will he and Lowry thrive collectively? Will he choose the Raptors to their first Finals? Will he reside or go subsequent summer season? There might be 1,000,000 questions between now and July 1.
4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0ed,it’s a really ravishing line,” Jackson talked about. “possibly he is the change-maker, however we simply have no idea yet.”