Kawhi Leonard finally got his wish—he is no longer a member of the San Antonio Spurs. Early Wednesday morning, the Spurs and Raptorscame to terms on a deal that sent Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick. Even though Kawhi has made it clear for quite some time that he didn’t have any intention of ever suiting up in a Spurs jersey ever again, the moment is still bittersweet for a franchise that finally got to rid themselves of their disgruntled superstar despite the fact that he’s a bona fide top 10 all-around player when healthy.
Later in the day, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich spoke with reporters and reflected on Leonard’s time with the organization while keeping an eye on the future. "Kawhi obviously worked very hard to become the player he is and our staff worked very hard to help him get there and we wish him all the best as he moves on to Toronto," Popovich said. "I think he’s gonna be great."
Whether or not he intended to do it, Popovich was kind of more complimentary towards Green, applauding the way he handled himself on and off the court, as well as repeatedly saying how much he will be missed. "Danny Green will be missed. He’s been here quite a while and was a big part of what we do on and off the court,” he said. “He was a great community guy, and we are going to miss him very much." If we were to read too much into Pop’s remarks in the moment, we would immediately point out that he used some pretty boilerplate responses in regards to Kawhi’s departure before striking a more personal tone when speaking about Green.
Towards the end of their time together in San Antonio, Leonard and Popovich’s relationship became so strained that everyone sort of knew that their one-on-one meeting in the summer wasn’t going to fix something that was well beyond repair. Still, Pop was determined to remain cordial when speaking about his tenure with the team. With that chapter over, Pop wants to focus on the new players acquired from Toronto. "Kawhi conducted himself wonderfully while he was here. He helped us win a fifth championship and was a hard worker all the time. We wish him well, but at this point, it’s time to move on," Pop said. "I'm concerned about Jacob and DeMar and our basketball team and putting that together."