Raptors coach said Kawhi Leonard ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ during first meeting

AP
12 Comments

The public perception of Kawhi Leonard has always been that he was extremely quiet, even timid, speaking mostly through his actions on the basketball court.

That’s probably never been fair, but we have only added to our public construction of his persona via his odd saga with the San Antonio Spurs. A quiet, moody player influenced by his handlers to an extent where he would be willing to leave the best franchise in the NBA has perhaps not sat well with many fans.

But people take what information they can get, which is perhaps why the most recent story about Leonard and his personality will continue to inform our opinion of him. Leonard is now a member of the Toronto Raptors, and eventually we were going to have to hear about him sitting down with members of their staff other than general manager Masai Ujiri. Leonard reportedly recently did just that, talking with new Raptors coach Nick nurse.

According to Nurse, it went very well.

In a recently published feature in the Toronto Star, Nurse said that he and Leonard talked for a significant period of time, excitedly chatting about diagrams, Leonard’s role on the team, and what would be to come during the 2018-2019 NBA season.

Via The Star:

Surely, as the basketball talk with Leonard went on for some 45 minutes — and Leonard, in Nurse’s words, “lit up like a Christmas tree,” at one point rising to join Nurse diagramming schemes on the whiteboard — Nurse must have been breathing a sigh of relief. The incommunicative enigma who somehow had a falling out with the gold-standard franchise in San Antonio wasn’t some petulant nightmare. Instead, he sounded very much like a typical NBA player concerned about how he’ll fit with his new team, not to mention an elite NBA player deeply hooked on the game’s intricacies.

“We could have gone forever. (Raptors management) kept knocking on the door and I was like, ‘A couple more minutes.’ Because we were really into it,” Nurse said. “It was fun to listen to his take. He asked me, ‘How are you going to use me? Where are you going to get me the ball? What do you see?’ And I told him, ‘Listen. To me, you can do pretty much everything. You can post. You can drive. You can handle it up the floor. You can play screen and roll. You can come off pindowns.’ I said, ‘Did I miss anything?’ He’s like, ‘No, that’s about it.’ I said, ‘You’ll probably be doing all that stuff.’ ”

Whether or not Leonard decides to play in Toronto still seems to be a question of concern for some fans. His reported interest in playing in Los Angeles has never been refuted, although there have been rumors that people close to Leonard believe that he could come to love Toronto over time. Indeed, Toronto is a world-class city and no doubt a great place to live as well as play basketball.

If things go well for the Raptors this season in the Eastern Conference, you really can’t count out the idea of Leonard staying in Canada after this year. Then again, Toronto has positioned itself to be able to do a rebuild quickly if Leonard decides to leave. Anything is possible.

I still just want to see him on a basketball floor for the Raptors before I make any judgments one way or the other. The rough slog of summer will make the wait for that moment even harder.

Do you have burning NBA questions you want answered? Submit your questions to Pro Basketball Talk for our mailbag! E-mail us at pbtmailbag@gmail.com to get your question featured right here on PBT.