Toronto Raptors press conference welcomes Kawhi Leonard

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

Kawhi Leonard was seen in a Toronto Raptors uniform for the first time Monday. We break down the star player’s opening press conference.

Monday marked the Toronto Raptors annual media day. For the first time since being acquired this past summer, Kawhi Leonard had the opportunity to speak to the media in an organized fashion.

The event had been highly anticipated by fans for quite some time.

Kawhi Leonard is not known as a vibrant personality. He often waivers away from the spotlight, however, on Monday he even cracked a joke to kick things off. A laugh and a smile on day one is a victory in itself.

During his media conference, the former finals MVP offered some insight into the year ahead. In typical Kawhi fashion, he said enough to hold us all over without pulling back the curtain too far. Soon enough his play will be doing most of the talking.

Thoughts on being traded to Toronto

A common question asked during the presser were his thoughts on coming to Toronto. He had this to say:

Two things standout from within this quote:

Leonard acknowledged Toronto as a “basketball city.” This speaks volumes about just how large the Raptors’ fan base has grown over the years.

Ever since the “We The North” movement started Toronto has flourished as a basketball city. Hockey will always have its place in Toronto, however, that shouldn’t stop prevent it from becoming a top basketball destination as well.

Another interesting tidbit here is when Leonard mentions his excitement to play in front of this fanbase. Raptors fans, pat yourselves on the back.

Regarding any potential resentment towards the San Antonio Spurs Medical Staff

One of the most talked about reasons for Kawhi Leonard’s eagerness to leave San Antonio was because of a rift with the Spurs’ medical staff. The 27-year old suffered a quad injury last season. First, it was not believed to be serious by the Spurs’ staff. However, after Leonard’s team got a second look it was recommended that he take more time off.

In a July report by USA Today’s For The Win, it was stated that Leonard “hid” from Spurs officials when they came to visit him in New York while he was rehabbing his thigh.

When Kawhi was asked about specifically about what went wrong in San Antonio and if he had lost faith in the Spurs medical staff he had this to say:

"“I have no regrets but, I want to focus on this team, this journey and what we have in front of us today and just stay in the present time and not look back.”"

Even if Leonard had problems with the Spurs staff, the chances of him discussing them in public are slim. Instead, he reiterated his desire to focus on the present. Kawhi’s desire to focus on the present rather than the past or future was a common theme in Monday’s press conference.

What is the long-term plan?

The question on everyone’s mind was finally addressed Monday morning. What is the long-term plan for Kawhi Leonard? To his credit, Toronto’s newest superstar avoided getting anyone’s hopes up.

He spoke about how he is looking at things:

"“as a day-to-day process and that the focus is on this year and the group that I have in front of me. I don’t want to trip over the present by looking ahead to the future.”"

Considering Leonard has yet to even play a game in a Raptors uniform, looking ahead to his long-term future is unreasonable. Kawhi will have more than 82 games with Toronto to help him with that decision.

Kawhi’s future is still very much undetermined. Much like Leonard is doing, Raptors fans should be excited for the present but not trip over the present by looking too far into the future.

Masai gives the fans an important role

Perhaps the biggest takeaway of Media Day was Masai Ujiiri’s message to the fans. The Raptors executive spoke about how there is only so much he can do to try to convince Kawhi Leonard to stay. He spoke about how Raptors fans and the people of Toronto will also play a large part in winning over Leonard’s heart.

Predicting the Raptors starting lineup next season. dark. Next

Locking up the 27-year old long-term might feel far off now. However if everyone does their part, it is possible. Much like how every player on an NBA team has a role to play, everyone who associates themselves with the Raptors and city of Toronto will have a role to play in winning over Kawhi Leonard for the long haul.