TORONTO — It was a heck of a season, but it appears that’s all the Toronto Raptors are going to get from Kawhi Leonard.
Less than a month after leading the Raptors to their first NBA title, the superstar free agent is leaving Toronto for the Los Angeles Clippers.
A person familiar with the negotiations says the Clippers will be landing Leonard as a free agent after they acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a massive trade for players and draft picks.
George will be traded for at least four first-round picks, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity early Saturday because none of the moves have been finalized. And Leonard made his decision to sign with the Clippers after the team swung the deal to land George, the person said.
ESPN, which first reported the trade, also said the Thunder were getting Hamilton native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari from the Clippers.
Leonard going to the Clippers means that for the first time, a reigning NBA Finals MVP will be changing teams before the next season. Leonard was also pursued by the Los Angeles Lakers and, of course, the Raptors.
He reportedly agreed to a four-year, US$142 million max contract, which he can sign as early as noon ET on Saturday.
Leonard was arguably the most coveted prize in this year’s free agency, and met with several teams including the Raptors, Lakers and Clippers in his hometown of Los Angeles.
The Lakers didn’t wait long before starting to move on from their quest for Leonard. Danny Green announced that he is signing a two-year, US$30 million deal with the Lakers, meaning he, too, is leaving Toronto.
“It’s been unfortunate how things turned out for everybody, and the city of Toronto and Canada that we couldn’t run it back. Kawhi has made his decision. Seems like the announcement is out,” Green said in a video he posted to his social media accounts. “It’s time for me to make my announcement … I will be teaming up with new teammates in LA, the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Had a fun time in the city of Toronto … always have a great place in my heart, will never forget the historical run that we had,” said Green.
The news ends months of speculation and angst for Raptors fans, that has only heated up as the days wore on after free agency opened last Sunday.
The top 10 Twitter trends in Toronto were about the move on Saturday morning as Raptors fans woke up to the news. The hashtags #ThankYouKawhi and #ThankYouDanny were both trending. Toronto Mayor John Tory tweeted: “Our #KawhiWatch has ended. #ThankYouKawhi for the NBA championship that you helped to bring to Toronto with your @Raptors teammates. #ThanksKawhi #WeTheNorth.”
Leonard’s sister, Miesha Slayton, posted several images on Instagram showing her brother in a Clippers jersey.
His tenure in Toronto ended with a wild few days of free agency that included tracking trips to California by the plane owned by Raptors parent company Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., and Toronto news station CP24 following a black van by helicopter that may or may not have had Leonard in it.
Billboards encouraging Leonard to stay emerged in Toronto, with signs also popping up in Los Angeles calling on the star forward to return home.
Leonard’s departure was considered by many to be a foregone conclusion a year ago when Raptors president Masai Ujiri acquired him from the San Antonio Spurs in an off-season blockbuster that sent beloved franchise icon DeMar DeRozan to Texas.
Leonard had a year left on his contract plus a player option — which he was certainly going to decline — when he moved to Toronto, and many believed he’d put in a season in Canada before bolting for Los Angeles.
The Raptors certainly made Leonard’s decision a tough one. After Leonard missed all but nine games the previous season in San Antonio with a serious quadriceps injury, he said health was his biggest concern heading into this campaign.
Toronto responded by treating the superstar, who turned 28 on Saturday, with kid gloves. They made “load management” part of the NBA lexicon, holding him out of back-to-back games for health maintenance.
It all paid off in the playoffs, as Leonard had one of the best performances in NBA post-season history in leading the Raptors to their first Larry O’Brien Trophy. He was excellent on both sides of the ball as they dispatched Orlando, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and finally the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. He was rewarded with his second career Finals MVP award.
There were iconic moments along the way, including Leonard’s series-winning final shot in Game 7 against the 76ers that bounced on the rim four times before falling, sending the Scotiabank Arena crowd into a frenzy.
Leonard’s status as a sports icon in Toronto and across Canada perhaps closed the gap between the Raptors and other suitors. But ultimately, the lure of home proved too much and what Toronto had to offer wasn’t enough.
Leonard averaged 26.6 points on 49.6 per cent shooting, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals over 60 regular-season games with the Raptors in 2018-19. He took his game to an elite level in the playoffs, averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals over 24 games.
His departure is a massive blow to Toronto’s chances of back-to-back titles, and obviously puts a damper on the Lakers’
—With files from The Associated Press
Lori Ewing , The Canadian Press
RDC Athletes of the Week.. plus a busy weekend upcoming for RDC Athletics
RDC Athletics Update From RDC Athletics
Red Deer College Athletics is proud to announce the Bedford Food Company Athletes of the Week:
1. Shayla Sklaruk– Queens Cross Country Running Hometown – Stony Plain, AB
Bachelor of Education Elementary (2nd year)
Shayla Sklaruk (26:50.53) had a strong race at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Cross Country Running National Championships in Grande Prairie on November 9. In snowy and cold weather conditions, the Bachelor of Education Elementary student led the RDC Queens to a fourth place team finish, narrowly missing bronze. Individually, Sklaruk completed the 6 km race in 11th spot in a deep and talented field of the top collegiate female runners across Canada.
2. Devin Saunders – Kings Cross Country Running Hometown – Red Deer, AB
Business Administration General Management (2nd year)
Devin Saunders (29:33.32) ran incredibly well at the CCAA Cross Country Running National Championships this past Saturday. In challenging weather conditions, the Business Administration General Management student rose to the occasion. Saunders led the Kings to bronze, which was the first national medal for the RDC men. The second-year competitor from Red Deer placed tenth over 8 km and earned a spot on the CCAA Men’s Cross Country Running All-Canadian team.
This Week in Red Deer College Athletics is sponsored by the RDC Students’ Association
This week the RDC Basketball teams will play two games at home. The Hockey Queens will face the Olds College Broncos in a home-and-home series. The Red Deer College Kings Hockey team will challenge the Portage College Voyageurs twice in Lac La Biche. Both RDC Volleyball squads will compete against the Medicine Hat College Rattlers in two road matches.
Here is a summary of what is happening this week:
Queens Basketball | Friday, Nov. 15 | 6:00 p.m. | Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre
The Red Deer College Queens (3-1) will host the Ambrose University Lions (0-5). The Queens have some momentum after defeating the 2019 CCAA National Champions, the Olds College Broncos, this past Friday. Over four games, the RDC Queens have averaged 69 points, 50.5 rebounds and ten steals. Stauffer, Alberta’s Amy Szymanek has had a great start to the season and shares sixth spot in league scoring with 16.3 points per game.
Queens Basketball | Saturday, Nov. 16 | 6:00 p.m. | Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre
The Queens will entertain the Lethbridge College Kodiaks (3-2).
Kings Basketball | Friday, Nov.15 | 8:00 p.m. | Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre
The third place Red Deer College Kings (3-1) will compete against the Ambrose University Lions (2-3). Red Deer’s Spencer Klassen sits second in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Men’s Basketball with an average of 25 points per game.
Kings Basketball | Saturday, Nov.16 | 8:00 p.m. | Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre
The RDC Kings will host the undefeated Lethbridge College Kodiaks (5-0). The Kodiaks and Trojans are tied for top spot in the south.
Queens Hockey | Thursday, Nov. 14 | 7:00 p.m. | Olds College
The second place RDC Queens (6-1-1-0) will play the Broncos (1-6-1-0) in Olds. Goaltender Karlee Fetch has been very good in net and sports the second best goals against average (2.16) and save percentage (0.916) in ACAC Women’s Hockey.
Queens Hockey | Saturday, Nov. 16 | 7:00 p.m. | Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre
The Queens will entertain the Broncos in a rematch.
Kings Hockey | Friday, Nov. 15 | 7:00 p.m. | Portage College
The second place Hockey Kings (6-1-1-0) will face-off against the Portage College Voyageurs (0-7-1-0). Chase Thudium leads the Kings with 12 points. The Kings continue to boast the top power play in the league, with a 95.7 per cent success rate.
Kings Hockey | Saturday, Nov. 16 | 1:00 p.m. | Portage College
In an afternoon game, the RDC Kings will play the Voyageurs.
Queens Volleyball | Friday, Nov. 15 | 6:00 p.m. | Medicine Hat College
The third place Queens (4-2) will compete against the Rattlers (4-4) in Medicine Hat. The RDC Queens are on a four match winning streak. Red Deer’s Emma Holmes has a hitting percentage of 0.505, which leads ACAC Women’s Volleyball.
Queens Volleyball | Saturday, Nov. 16 | 1:00 p.m. | Medicine Hat College
The Red Deer College Queens will face the Medicine Hat College Rattlers in an afternoon tilt.
Kings Volleyball | Friday, Nov. 15 | 8:00 p.m. | Medicine Hat College
The RDC Kings (5-1) will play the Rattlers (1-7) on the road. Across the league, setter Thomas Wass has averaged the most assists per set (8.95).
Kings Volleyball | Saturday, Nov. 16 | 3:00 p.m. | Medicine Hat College
The Rattlers will host the Kings.
RDC Runners are National Bronze Medalists!
From RDC Athletics
RDC Athletics Recap
This past week the Kings Soccer team finished sixth at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Men’s Soccer National Championship in Ontario. The RDC Cross Country Running Kings earned bronze and the Queens placed fourth at the CCAA Cross Country National Championships in Grande Prairie.
The Hockey Queens earned three of a possible four points against the NAIT Ooks. Both RDC Volleyball teams defeated the Olds College Broncos twice. The basketball teams downed the Broncos, including an impressive Queens’ win over the defending national champions.
Here is a summary of what happened this week in RDC Athletics:
Kings Soccer | CCAA Championship | Vaso’s Field | Oshawa
Even though injuries accumulated, the Red Deer College Kings gave it their all at nationals, finishing sixth.
In the quarter-final, the Kings defeated the Holland Hurricanes 2-1 on penalty kicks. Nathan Swartz scored in regulation time. Gabriel Martins Fonseca scored the winning penalty kick.
The Durham Lords downed the RDC Kings 2-0 in the semi-final. In the bronze semi-final, Champlain St-Lambert Cavaliers picked up a 3-0 decision over the Kings. Then in the placement match, the Humber Hawks won 5-0 over RDC.
RDC Cross Country | Sat., Nov. 9 | CCAA Championships | Grande Prairie
In challenging weather, the RDC Kings earned CCAA bronze and the Queens finished fourth, narrowly missing the podium. Red Deer’s Devin Saunders (29:33.32) placed tenth nationally over 8 km, earning a spot on the CCAA All-Canadian team.
“It was a great day and huge victory for the men,” says RDC Cross Country Head Coach Kari Elliot. “To have three of the men finish in the top 20 is incredible and it’s the first time the Kings have podiumed at nationals.”
Shayla Sklaruk (26:50.53) paced the Queens over 6 km, crossing the finish line in 11th spot.
Queens Volleyball | Thursday, Nov. 7 | Olds College
The Queens defeated the Broncos in three sets (25-16, 25-13 and 25-18). Emma Holmes and Tess Pearman had nine kills each.
Queens Volleyball | Friday, Nov. 8 | Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre
The Red Deer College Queens (4-2) swept the Broncos at home (25-17, 25-15 and 25-18). Emma Holmes had eight kills. Jade Van Dyke, Erin Neufeldt and Alexandria Greenshields recorded seven each. Prior to the opening serve, representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion were present, promoting and leading Remembrance.
Kings Volleyball | Thursday, Nov. 7 | Olds College
The RDC Kings defeated the Olds College Broncos in three sets (25-21, 25-19 and 25-16). Ben Holmes led the Kings with ten kills.
Kings Volleyball | Friday, Nov. 8 | Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre
In a rematch, the Kings (5-1) swept the Broncos (25-14, 25-19 and 25-17). Setter Thomas Wass finished with 22 assists.
Queens Hockey | Friday, Nov. 8 | NAIT
The NAIT Ooks edged the RDC Queens 4-3 in a shootout. Carissa Hogan scored a pair of goals and Jenessa Fournier added a single. The Queens picked up a point in the standings.
Queens Hockey | Saturday, Nov. 9 | Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre
The Queens (6-2-0-0) earned a 4-2 victory over the Ooks. Avery Lajeunnesse, Brooklyn Rowley, Camryn Wallan and Jenessa Fournier scored for RDC. Karlee Fetch made 19 saves for the win.
Queens Basketball | Friday, Nov. 8 | Olds College
The Red Deer College Queens (3-1) played hard and defeated the 2019 CCAA National Champions, the Olds College Broncos, 69-65. Stockholm’s Sophie Melin led the Queens with 17 points.
Kings Basketball | Friday, Nov. 8 | Olds College
The Red Deer College Kings (3-1) dropped the Olds College Broncos 104-73. Former Bronco, Jouvon Edison, scored 21 points.
For more information on RDC Athletics, the student-athletes and teams, please visit: rdcathletics.ca RDC Athletics photos are available on Flickr.
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