When reports emerged Monday night that the Toronto Raptors were hiring Jeremy Castleberry away from the San Antonio Spurs, it appeared to be a clear indication that Masai Ujiri and Co. were already beginning the long-term recruitment of their new superstar acquisition.
Castleberry has widely been reported as Kawhi Leonard’s best friend, with a relationship between the two that supposedly goes back to childhood and their high school days.
The common theory behind bringing in Castleberry is he will help Leonard get better acclimated in Toronto and may help him open up to the idea of remaining with the Raptors longer than the one year remaining on his contract.
That’s all speculation, however, and the reality is no one really has any idea what sort of impact Castleberry may or may not have on Leonard – except, perhaps, for one of Leonard’s old Spurs teammates.
Danny Green has been with Leonard for the entirety of the two-time defensive player of the year’s career and has seen, first-hand, what having Castleberry around has done for Leonard’s mood.
The other Spur who was acquired in the Leonard-DeMar DeRozan blockbuster opened up about Castleberry on the latest episode of his Inside the Green Room podcast Thursday.
“Jeremy is my guy, man. Everybody loves Jeremy. He’s great at what he does, he’s amazing and, obviously, he’s gonna make Kawhi feel more comfortable at home,” Green said.
“I’m not shocked by it. I’d be more shocked if he actually stayed in San Antonio because [Leonard’s] the reason why he came into the Spurs organization, but he’s earned his keep. He interned, he became the video room guy, the ball boy, all that stuff you need to do. Learned the game, figured out what he needed to do and he’s been great ever since.”
Far from just a “Kawhi whisperer,” Green believes Castleberry will provide the Raptors with some real value in his role as a player development coach. However, Green is also aware of just how meaningful having him around Leonard can be.
“It’s good to have him on board. Hopefully it helps Kawhi feel more comfortable at home and keeps him in the city that they want to keep him here,” Green continued. “Obviously they traded for him for a reason. They think they can sell him.
“I think Canada’s a beautiful place and Canadians are beautiful people. It’s an amazing city in Toronto. So the city sells itself. It’s hard to want to leave that place after being in that country, being in that city. And now you have your best friend with you. What else could you ask for?”
An encouraging endorsement of Castleberry, if you’re a Raptors fan, from Green.
Even more inspired from Toronto’s newest guard, however, were comments he made on the podcast in response to a bold proclamation from Boston Celtics shooting guard Jaylen Brown that his team was going to win the East.
“I think the squad that we have, it’s gonna be interesting. I think we’ll have quite a bit to say about it when we step on the floor,” Green said.
“I’ve been in this game long enough to know how guys are supposed to think. As much as we say politically correct things in the media, behind the scenes – on the court, on the floor – there ain’t no friends. We going out there and we want blood. As much as he thinks that, we think the same. And we ain’t gonna let anybody walk all over us thinking it’s an easy path anywhere. Regardless of who’s out there, who’s in the East and who’s not. It’ll be fun.”
It’s clear Green has a lot of confidence in this Raptors team heading into the season with himself, Leonard and Castleberry brought into the fold.