Somewhat to the surprise of new Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, his first meeting with Kawhi Leonard was a smashing success.
For a hot second, it seemed as if the Toronto Raptors might come to regret dealing their longtime star DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for former NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Shortly after the trade went down, it was reported that Leonard had absolutely no desire to play in Toronto and might even think about sitting out the 2018-19 season.
Shortly after, however, reports came in that Leonard was starting to warm up to the Raptors. And now, things are looking even better for Toronto fans, as Leonard met with new Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, and the meeting apparently went very well.
As initially reported by Dave Feschuk of The Star, Nurse went into the meeting feeling a little bit nervous, as there is no way to deny Leonard isn’t exactly a people person.
“I’d never talked to him before,” Nurse said. “I don’t think I’m alone in that. So you get a perception of him. I’ll be honest with you, I kind of went in there thinking, ‘What if he doesn’t say anything? What am I going to do?’”
Nurse was then pleasantly surprised by the reactions he got out of Leonard, who spent seven years with the Spurs, winning a title in 2014, and just turned 27 last month.
“I sat down and said, ‘Do you have any questions?’” Nurse continued. “And he started firing them. And it just led us to a really easygoing [conversation]. Not what I was expecting. Very smart. Very intelligent. Very engaging. Really enjoyed it.
“[Management] had to drag us out of there in the end because they had to go do something else. But it was great.”
Raptors fans should be ecstatic that Leonard is off to a good start with the organization. It would’ve been an epic disaster had he decided to sit out the season, or decided to not play hard during games, and then bolted out of Canada to join the Los Angeles Lakers (his preferred destination) next summer, leaving Toronto with nothing to show for it.
Now that Leonard seems to be committed to playing for the Raptors for at least the upcoming season, they might just make a formidable foe for the Boston Celtics, the team that many have assumed will win the Eastern Conference with ease. Once the Raptors get through the 2018-19 season, then the focus will shift to trying to keep Leonard in Toronto.