Kawhi Leonard hails from the San Bernadino area in Southern California and went to college at San Diego State University. After that, the Spurs traded for him on draft day, so he's not used to the cold he's encountering in Toronto with the Raptors these days. While seemingly innocuous, weather might figure in his free agency decision this summer, according to a feature from ESPN about how the Raptors think they can entice him to stay.
League executives tell ESPN that it could come down to the Raptors and his hometown Clippers—the LeBron Lakers don't figure into his plans. And the ability for Leonard to be close to home, where the weather is balmy and snow only happens on a sound stage, could be LA's biggest argument for another dramatic move.
"But it's just cold," Leonard told ESPN of Toronto. "You know, I came from California, and I moved to San Antonio, and there's no snow in either city. It's my first experience having Christmas with snow on the ground and just seeing snow throughout the year for the first time." And it's not like the Clippers have done a good job hiding their infatuation with Leonard.
Weather aside, Leonard's got other things on his mind than his summer free agency decision. "I'm not thinking about [free agency]," he told ESPN. "I'm focused on right now, what this is bringing for me and focused on the opportunity that I have here and what we can do this season. Later down the road, that's when I'll make my decision."
The here and the now explains the timing of the feature in ESPN. On Thursday night, Kawhi's Raptors will tip off in San Antonio on TNT, the only place Leonard called home before this summer's trade to Drake and the 416. It'll be his first return to his old stomping grounds‚ where snow never falls.
Leonard's former coach, Gregg Popovich, who passive-aggressively took a swipe at his former star earlier this season, exhibited his usual grace when asked what the reaction might be from fans on Thursday night.
"I don't speak for other people but I hope we treat everybody with kindness and respect," said Popovich. "We always have in the past."