Raptors president explains his plan to sell Kawhi Leonard on staying in Toronto next offseason
Masai Ujiri is intent on keeping Leonard, an unrestricted free agent next summer, around beyond this season
The Toronto Raptors made the boldest move of this NBA offseason. Swooping in out of nowhere, they ended up winning the Kawhi Leonard trade sweepstakes, acquiring him and Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick. It is an immense risk considering not only Leonard's questionable health -- he played just nine games last season due to a mysterious quad injury -- but the fact that he'll be an unrestricted free agent next summer and has expressed near constant interest in playing in Los Angeles.
Along with the high risk, however, comes a high reward, which is why the Raptors were willing to make the deal. Should Leonard prove to be healthy, they'll be one of the main contenders to win the Eastern Conference this season. Plus, they'll have the next nine months to convince Leonard to stay in Toronto and re-sign for the long term. So how does Raptors president Masai Ujiri plan on going about that? Well, he explained as much on a recent appearance on Adrian Wojnarowski's podcast, The Woj Pod.
We are who we are. We are going to be prepared, we are going to make things as smooth... I think you want to be genuine, you want to be real. You know, this is who we are. We might not be the best ones in weather, but we might be the best ones in many other places: the diversity, the city, the uniqueness of a place like [Toronto], fans, the atmosphere. I think those things are so unique, it's beginning to show everywhere.
And then you have to put the basketball together. Maybe before the basketball wasn't a part of it, but I know there's a part of him that I'm sure thinks this team has a chance. With his teammates and seeing how hard these guys are working. We have to show who we are. There is no fake sales job here -- this is what it is.
Additionally, Ujiri discussed Leonard's health, and noted that while he has been overseas and unable to watch Leonard himself, he's gotten good reports from the coaches. Per Ujiri, there hasn't been an official verdict on what Leonard's restrictions -- if any -- may be once training camp begins in a few weeks, but he noted that Leonard has ramped up his training.
Only time will tell if the Raptors' big gamble with Leonard was worthwhile, but with Ujiri in charge it seems they are going at this the right way.
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