Oh, to be Kawhi Leonard: to vacate a championship city and leave a smoking, emotional crater and go to one of the biggest media markets in the world after forcing your new team to strip itself of every future asset:
And still have people wish you God speed.
Forget Board Man getting paid. This is Teflon Man getting paid.
From the best available reporting, it now seems as if Leonard not only ended up in the city he wanted to be in all along — remember, he wanted to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers when the San Antonio Spurs were fixing to move him last season — but he also played a little hardball, too. He did what NBA stars have done since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, only in a quieter, closed fist-inside-a-velvet-glove kind of way.
Richard Deitsch, my co-host from 4-7 p.m. on Sportsnet 590, debated this very notion on Friday: Where could Kawhi Leonard best continue to build on his legacy? We both agreed the Lakers were a little whorish. Deitsch said Toronto and I said the Clippers, where I’d felt he was headed all along.
I still feel that Leonard chose the ballsiest path: throwing in his lot with the Clippers and lifting that franchise into favoured status over LeBron and Anthony Davis and the Lakers, who truth must be told have been dining off their history for the past five years. The teams share a city and an arena, but they don’t share the hearts of the city’s basketball culture.
Now Leonard can maybe win a third title with a third different team — he’s taken less money to do so and now has a chance to maybe settle all the ghosts surrounding a franchise that was the Buffalo Braves before moving to San Diego; a franchise that has had some nice players and some pretty moments but was also once owned by Donald Sterling, a man who was forced to sell the franchise because of racist comments. Pro sports has had some truly awful owners — to make it on the Mt. Douchemore of that list is something. But Sterling managed it.