With the hype surrounding Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard’s Monday meeting against Toronto, the small forward downplayed the action between the two clubs, which will mark the first time the 28-year-old will face his former team since he left in free agency.
“I mean, it’s a former team I won a championship with, but it’s any other game,” Leonard said, via TSN. “It’s gonna be fun to see the guys again and congratulate them and shake hands and compete.”
The 28-year-old has excelled in his first seven games with Los Angeles (29 points, 5.4 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game), which is 6-3 so far this season and ranks second in the Western Conference. As for Toronto — even without the 2019 NBA Finals MVP on the court — is 6-2 and sits at second place in the East through Nov. 8.
Leonard complemented the Raptors’ play in the games he has seen so far this season and in particular, noted Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby’s outstanding efforts in the wake of his departure.
“They’re taking up where they left off,” he added, as per TSN. “OG is finally getting a chance to play every game, a lot of minutes, so his improvement is just going to keep getting better. As well as Pascal, him being that number one, number two option there is great for him. He’s going to learn and keep growing.”
A native of Riverside, California, Leonard ultimately opted to return to his home to play for the Clippers after just one remarkable season in Toronto. He told reporters “there [is] just so much” to talk about when he remembers his year with the Raptors outside of the team’s success on the court and called the whole experience “amazing.”
When Leonard was asked if his experience with the team had turned out “better than [he] anticipated” after he was being traded to Toronto by the San Antonio Spurs, he said he was “always open-minded” about the move.
“Playing with Cory Joseph in San Antonio, him being from that area in Toronto, I knew what that city kind of brought,” Leonard said. “Just going out there playing games, hanging out with [Joseph] and his friends, him taking me and showing me the city. I always felt positive with the trade and the front office I knew was great already with [Raptors team president Masai Ujiri] already in there.”
Leonard also added that he is consistently shocked by how often Canadian citizens approach him in the United States and express appreciation for his success in Toronto.
“You’ll never know, I guess unless you go play up there and they recognize your talent for playing with the Raptors,” he said, via TSN
The Clippers and Raptors meet in Los Angeles on Nov. 11 at 10:30 p.m. ET.