Let’s get this out of the way right now.
If Kawhi Leonard really dislikes the idea of attention from media and fans, he wouldn’t be negotiating with both NBA teams based in Los Angeles.
The helicopter-cam following the car that might (or might not) have had the NBA star inside was a little unusual to see. The fans gathering outside the hotel where a meeting may (or may not) have been planned between Leonard and the Raptors was a little unusual to see. That all of this happened on a Wednesday around 1:30 in the afternoon was a little unusual to see.
And yet, it was almost expected. It had to be.
As strange as Wednesday afternoon was, this had to be on the list of possibilities from Leonard’s side. He had just brought an NBA Championship to Toronto. He was there for the parade. He saw the impact he had on the city. He saw the state of social media when he went into Home Depot to buy boxes.
He couldn’t have been expecting a normal reaction as he was re-entering the country.
Perhaps, as “Superfan” Nav Bhatia tried to tell the fanbase, he deserved one and there should have been one, but he’s not blind to the effect he’s had on this country, and on the city of Toronto. Also, he just played in the NBA Finals on international television. It seems unlikely that he’s bothered by attention.
That said, between the rumours that he really doesn’t want teams leaking information about their meetings, and the reputation Los Angeles has for a strong media presence, Toronto as a city should probably take a step back if they want to keep the edge on that part of the puzzle.
If Jalen Rose’s confidence on ESPN yesterday was any indication, the Raptors are still very much in the discussion. At the very least, they aren’t “out” in Leonard’s mind.
While Toronto should take that step back, this won’t be the deal-breaker, and it shouldn’t take the blame if he doesn’t sign in Toronto.
At the end of the day, Leonard’s goal was Los Angeles.
If he signs in Los Angeles, not only will it show that he didn’t care about the bizarre helicopter-cam, it will also show that there wasn’t really anything Masai Ujiri could have done to keep him north of the border. It will be the predictable end to this chapter in Leonard’s career.
If he signs in Toronto, it will be because of Ujiri, his Raptors teammates, and the trust in the Raptors organization to attempt a second championship in a row.
That’s the way it was before the craziness yesterday, and that’s the way it will be after he signs. It’s unfair to blame it on the eagerness of the media and the anticipation of the fans.
Remember – everyone’s talking about the man who could sign the biggest Free Agent contract in Toronto history. It’s fine to get excited about that, even if it looks a bit odd to others.