In the wake of Kawhi Leonard’s decision to return to his hometown of Los Angeles and join the Clippers for at least a couple of seasons — although you never know nowadays — the blockbuster transaction was covered from seemingly every angle. Of all the ways the deal was analyzed, though, no one can speak more to the impact of Leonard’s decision than the Raptors teammates who bonded with him during a historic championship run.
Marc Gasol gave his two cents on Leonard’s decision in a conversation with Marc Stein of The New York Times ahead of the Spanish national team’s exhibition game against Team USA at Honda Center on Friday. Judging by his comments, Gasol has no hard feelings in the slightest for the former Raptors’ superstar.
“You can’t blame the guy for wanting to go home,” Gasol told Stein. “If you tell me I can go (to) Barcelona and make an absurd amount of money and play in the NBA … I understand completely and respect it and wish him the best.”
Gasol’s understanding nature echoes the feelings some other Raptors players have expressed about Leonard’s decision this summer, including Norman Powell and Kyle Lowry. Head coach Nick Nurse chimed in on the matter, too, providing a nearly-identical quote to Gasol’s while doing so.
Leonard officially signed a three-year, $103-million contract with the Clippers on July 10, only a few weeks after winning the title. The third year of the deal includes a player option, meaning Leonard can opt out of the contract following the 2020-21 season.
The Raptors will receive their championship rings and raise their championship banner on Oct. 22 ahead of their home opener against the New Orleans Pelicans. Leonard will have to wait a couple of months to get his ring, though, with the Clippers visiting the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 11.