Kawhi Leonard officially began life as a Los Angeles Clipper Wednesday, taking the stage with team brass and fellow homegrown star Paul George. It was an unveiling a long time coming, with the basketball world having already been rocked and subsequently settled by the reining Finals MVP’s free-agency decision.
Now that the rumour mill has ground to a halt and the two-time champion has said his thank-you’s and goodbyes to the city of Toronto, Leonard revealed Wednesday just how close he came to returning to The North.
“I was very close. Real close,” Leonard told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols Wednesday when asked how close he came to going to “one of the other two teams” in contention, the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers. “You know, when [the Clippers] presented the opportunity of playing with Paul, it was easy. It was a yes. I said, ‘Let’s get it going.'”
Leonard also opened up on how he’s feeling heading into his first season playing in his home state. It’s safe to say the Riverside, Calif., native isn’t regretting his career-altering choice.
“It’s still kind of surreal. Just being able to have Paul on my team and just being back home and playing,” he told Nichols. “It’s just a great experience. It’s probably going to be my first time playing with an elite player at his level, around the same age as me, same talent. You know, I’m excited to play. I can’t wait til training camp starts, to get into season mode, to put on a jersey, pass someone a ball, you know, just talk on the floor.
“I can’t wait. I’m excited.”