Trash-talk Toronto Raptors: A lasting goodbye for Kawhi

Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Kawhi Leonard: That ceremony nearly brought tears to my eyes, I think.

It felt like the world tuned in to the Toronto Raptors versus LA Clippers game. And, duh, why not? It was only the return of the Raptors’ savior of the 2019 playoffs, Kawhi Leonard.

As we discussed last week in this column, the Kawhi questions and narratives have been a little overwhelming. Powell notably said prior to the game that he was pretty much ready to put the Kawhi questions behind him as it’s a new season with a new team.

Well, the Toronto Raptors certainly put on a show for Kawhi, one that won’t soon be replicated. It included darkening the entire arena to displaying footsteps on the court paying homage to the decisive Game 7 shot against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Afterward, the Board Man made his way through the executives and the players, giving handshakes and high fives along the way, to meet Kyle Lowry at the end of the line, who handed Kawhi his ring.

Just prior to receiving it, Kawhi poked a little fun by pretending to wipe faux tears from his eyes, which put a generous smile across Lowry’s face.

All in all, it was a unique ceremony and Kawhi was even paraded with chants of “M-V-P!” after he waved to the crowd. Perhaps a bit awkward given that he was a part of the franchise for approximately nine months, but worthy nonetheless.

There are no gripes with how it went down. How the Raptors fared against the Clippers was cause for some griping, but it’s a long season and the Raptors are coming back from injuries.

In total, it was a fitting finale for both Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors organization and fanbase. While the championship run was one for the ages and it is certainly okay to gloat in victory over the course of the season, let’s remember that the title defense is just as important.

This isn’t a dig at Kawhi or how he left, it’s just a fact that there is more basketball to be played and it just so happens that Kawhi is no longer with our team. In fact, he’s now someone we are trying to beat.

Of course, Kawhi will certainly have his jersey retired and his Game 7 shot will live on in Raptors lore for eternity. We will certainly give him proper due for years to come.

Yet this iteration of the Toronto Raptors — led by young, up-and-comers Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby — are also incredibly worthy of our MVP chants. Let’s not forget that these guys played alongside Kawhi and have proven themselves along the way.

With Kawhi getting a thorough ceremony, let’s hope the current Raptors can look forward and not backward in their quest for another title. These Raptors just may have it in them.