Raptors’ Serge Ibaka says ‘no one is safe’ if Kawhi Leonard leaves

Nick Nurse and Delon Wright discuss the importance of having both Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard in the lineup as much as possible down the stretch and heading into the playoffs.

Try to talk to a Toronto Raptors fan for five minutes without the following question being raised: “So… Kawhi… think he’ll stay?”

You can’t.

Not that you can blame them, of course. By donning the Raptors’ Red, Kawhi Leonard instantly makes this a team with Championship-level expectations, while the nature of his free-agent-to-be status puts even more pressure on making a Finals push this season. Leonard’s status this summer very much dictates the direction of the Raptors franchise — a fact that’s clearly not lost on his teammates.

In a feature exploring Leonard’s future published in Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, senior writer Chris Mannix spoke with Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, who had a very interesting quote:

“We need him to stay,” Ibaka told Mannix of Leonard. “He keeps everybody safe — no one is safe if he leaves.”

Los Angeles — either the Clippers or Lakers — has long been considered the most likely destination for the L.A.-born baller, should he decide to go on the market this summer.

The Raptors, of course, have a one-year head start in recruiting the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and Ibaka — who has become one of Leonard’s strongest bonds in the locker room, per Mannix — is making good use of the time.

“We need you to stay,” Ibaka told Kawhi, as described in the feature. “Stay, Kawhi. Stayyyyyy.”

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