Star’s heartbreaking three-word text
Nick Nurse was hanging out with a few Raptors coaches Friday night when Kawhi Leonard's name popped up on his phone.
The text Nurse knew might come had arrived. "I'm going home," Leonard wrote to his head coach.
News broke shortly after on Saturday morning the Finals MVP was leaving Toronto for the Clippers.
"And I just said, 'You've changed a lot of lives, man, by what you've accomplished in Toronto. Mine especially,'" Nurse told reporters Saturday night at the NBA Summer League. "And thanked him for what he did, and we'll look to the future, and we'll look to (win a title) again."
Nurse said that he was always aware the publicly quiet Leonard could leave this off-season even if they won an NBA championship - which they did.
"I think you can't blame a guy for wanting to go home," Nurse said.
Leonard was believed to be choosing between a return to the Raptors and a homecoming with either the Lakers or Clippers.
The 28-year-old decided on the Clippers after recruiting fellow star Paul George, whose request to be traded from Oklahoma City to the Clippers was also fulfilled Saturday.
There was speculation Leonard could return to Canada on a one-year contract to defend the title.
"It's certainly disappointing," Nurse said. "I think, first of all, he's a great person. He was unbelievably fun to coach, just locked in and loaded and ready to go. People would ask me, 'What was it like coaching him?' And I always said the best thing was I got to stand there on the courtside and watch this guy go to work. That was something that I'll never forget. Now we got to go kick his ass."
That could prove extremely difficult for the Raptors, who lost not only Leonard but swingman Danny Green, who played a key supporting role in the Raptors' championship run but will join the Los Angeles Lakers.
Leonard, who also took 2014 NBA Finals MVP honours for leading San Antonio to the title, averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals a game in the playoffs for Toronto in his one campaign for the Raptors after being obtained last July in a trade with San Antonio.
The Raptors responded by signing Nets wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to a one-year deal on Monday.
When OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson combine like Voltron to form the ultimate defender capable of taking down Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers and who am I kidding I’m still so sad ...— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) July 7, 2019