Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Kawhi Leonard is staying on-brand when it comes to his first game north of the border against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 11.
“I’ll be thinking about just playing against the team and wanting to win the game, for the most part,” the Los Angeles Clippers star said of the matchup, per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. “Just really getting my ring that night. … We’re there for one reason: to play the Raptors and try to win the game.”
Unless the teams meet in the NBA Finals, this will be the Clippers’ only game in Toronto this season.
Leonard has already faced his old team once, scoring 12 points in a 98-88 win for Los Angeles on Nov. 11. The Clippers have been careful with managing his workload, but they have a day off before playing the Raptors, so he’ll presumably be in the lineup.
Even if Leonard doesn’t play, he can expect a warm reception from the fans at Scotiabank Arena. Although he only spent one year in Toronto, he made it count. The Raptors won their only championship to date, and the 28-year-old captured his second Finals MVP.
Leonard’s departure didn’t engender the kind of ill will stars can receive for leaving in free agency. He’ll forever be a beloved figure among the fanbase for his role in last year’s title run.
He wasn’t afforded the same treatment for his first game back in San Antonio as Spurs fans booed him throughout what proved to be a 125-107 loss for the Raptors this past January.
Clearly, Leonard isn’t getting wrapped up in the emotions of his Raptors reunion. And that’s to be expected of a player whose stoic demeanor was the punchline in a commercial for the newest Terminator installment.