Do the Toronto Raptors still have a shot to keep Kawhi Leonard?

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

Whether Kawhi Leonard wants to remain with the Toronto Raptors after this season is unclear. How can he be positively influenced?

Thursday night’s Toronto Raptors-San Antonio Spurs showdown spawned a huge number of articles by NBA writers. They weighed in on the chances of the Raptors retaining the services of Kawhi Leonard past this season.

Let’s be clear: I want Kawhi back. He’s been an excellent fit, and his skills don’t seem in the least diminished by the season lost to injury. The impact on our salary cap of re-signing him will be enormous. The only thing greater would be the size of the setback to our championship aspirations should he depart.

First of all, it’s a pleasant surprise to note how thoughtful U.S writers have been on this topic. Sure, you can find lots of “Kawhi’s going to the Clippers, and that’s settled” nonsense (no, I’m not going to quote anyone – free publicity for silliness? I don’t think so), but those who have actually bothered to research the matter aren’t nearly so sure.

Here’s some sensible views

Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune notes:

"“Essentially, the Raptors are betting on themselves. Betting on their cosmopolitan, cultured, civilized, cordial metropolis of 5.9 million.”"

Those thoughts echo Masai Ujiri’s position, which is to stress what Toronto is, rather than what it isn’t (i.e., warm in winter).

"“I think you want to be genuine, you want to be real….we might be the best ones in many other places: the diversity, the city, the uniqueness…”"

Tim Bontemps of ESPN is another who seems firmly on the fence about the odds of Kawhi signing a long-term deal with our team. The writer wonders why Kawhi wouldn’t stay? He would enjoy

"“the massive marketing potential that comes with living in one of North America’s biggest cities and a vibrant, passionate fan base”."

There are players who didn’t “get” Toronto. It’s cold during the basketball season, it’s in Canada so there’s extra income tax owing (blame the IRS!), the metric system is taught to young people, which seemed to bum out Antonio Davis. There are others who don’t want to be anywhere but under the brightest lights (‘Melo, Kobe).

Kawhi isn’t like those fellows. He strikes me as disdainful of snap judgments about important matters. He’s also concerned about where he wants to bring up his 2-year-old daughter. Many athletes have noted Torontonians tend not to bother them when they are trying to enjoy private moments. That appeals to him, I’m sure. He wouldn’t be human if the extra money the Raptors can offer wasn’t attractive, though that wasn’t enough to keep him in San Antonio.

Next. Toronto Raptors: 30 greatest players. dark

If there ever was a player with the right temperament for our city, Kawhi is the one. When he says he hasn’t made up his mind about next season and beyond, believe him. We’re still in the game.