Kawhi Leonard appreciates the confidence Toronto has had in him since it acquired him in a trade last year.
The former Spurs star suffered a serious quad injury in the 2017 playoffs, which affected him throughout the following season. However once San Antonio traded Leonard to the Raptors last offseason, they trusted him enough to let him rest periodically throughout the year to avoid reaggravating the injury. He believes his load management in 2018-19 helped Toronto reach the NBA Finals.
“It was good. When it got bad we ended up taking four or five games off,” Leonard told ESPN Friday. “If we didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here right now for sure. I’m already favoring it. Yeah I mean, the way we laid out the schedule was good. I’m happy.”
“If we didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here right now for sure.”
— ESPN (@espn) June 7, 2019
Leonard only played in 60 of the Raptors’ 82 games in 2018-19, but he’s arguably having his best playoff performance to date.
The 6-7 wing is averaging 30.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists through 21 postseason games and has helped Toronto secure a 2-1 advantage over the two-time defending champion Warriors in the championship series.
The Raptors traded away their franchise player in DeMar DeRozan to acquire Leonard. While this was a huge risk and many thought it would result in a short, one-year rental of Leonard, their trust in him may convince him to sign a long-term deal when he enters free agency this summer.