Raptors GM: Quiet Kawhi Leonard is happy and healthy
TORONTO — Kawhi Leonard has yet to address the media in Toronto since his trade to the Raptors, but team president Masai Ujiri said Tuesday that his star acquisition is happy and healthy.
“He is determined and seems in the right frame of mind,” Ujiri said. “You will be hearing from him shortly. I think there is a fire inside of him and we are all excited about that.”
Leonard was the centerpiece of one of the NBA’s biggest off-season trades. The Raptors acquired the two-time Defensive Player of the Year from the San Antonio Spurs along with Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a draft pick. Ujiri swung the deal while in Kenya working with his nonprofit, Giants of Africa.
While Leonard has remained mum on the move, Ujiri said he’s not concerned about the 27-year-old’s commitment to the franchise, saying Leonard worked out with Raptors coaches in Los Angeles, and has visited Toronto a couple of times.
“Basketball person. Just loves the game,” he said. “Wants to play the game and very competitive. You can tell he is a very competitive kid. It’s about basketball. Once you just start to talk about basketball his eyes change.”
The Raptors open training camp next week in Vancouver, and Ujiri said Leonard, who had a much-discussed falling-out with the Spurs, won’t get any special treatment.
“There is nothing we are going to do different. We are going to be ourselves. I think the situation with him in San Antonio, which I don’t want to talk about because I don’t know much about it, but he’s a quiet kid,” Ujiri said. “That’s his nature. We can’t all be the same kind of people. But he is as engaging as he would want to be and he’s very interesting. There is no maintenance with him. There are no tons of people around him. His (focus) is on basketball which is what you want. He is a basketball junkie.”
Ujiri said it was a difficult decision to trade DeRozan and that veteran guard Kyle Lowry also took the trade hard. Lowry refused to discuss the trade with reporters during a U.S. national team training camp in Las Vegas in late July.
“Kyle is close to DeMar and he’s going to be sensitive,” Ujiri said. “That was a blow to him. I think basketball-wise Kyle is always ready, he’s always going to be ready, he’s training hard and he’ll be ready.”