Marc Gasol on Kawhi Leonard leaving Raptors for Clippers: 'You can’t blame the guy for wanting to go home'

Marc Gasol hopes Kawhi Leonard succeeds in Los Angeles. 

Leonard led the Raptors to their first championship in franchise history before signing with his hometown Clippers this summer. Gasol was asked about Leonard’s decision to leave Toronto during a recent interview with the New York Times’ Marc Stein, which was published earlier this week. 

“I haven’t talked to him,” Gasol said. “Just a little through group text — that was it. You can’t blame the guy for wanting to go home. You can’t. If you tell me I can go back to Barcelona and make an absurd amount of money and play in the NBA — I understand completely the decision and respect it and wish him the best.”

Leonard, 28, entered free agency coming off one of the best postseason runs ever with the Raptors. He averaged 30.5 points in the playoffs, was named the Finals MVP and helped the team avoid elimination by knocking down a crazy bouncing buzzer beater in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the 76ers in the second round.

Leonard said last month Clippers coach Doc Rivers played a major role in his decision.

“I grew up a Clippers fan,” Leonard said during his introductory press conference. “I loved the Clippers as a kid. With Doc (Rivers) being a championship head coach, that is something I wanted, an experienced coach. And the front office is very transparent with me. They want to win. It’s an opportunity for us to build our own (thing) and make history.”

The Raptors, meanwhile, acquired Gasol from the Grizzlies before the trade deadline. He averaged 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 24 playoff appearances during Toronto’s title run. 

“You get a little more attention, for sure,” Gasol said about winning a championship. “You get recognized a lot. I’ve been surprised how many people are genuinely happy about it. Back home, in the States, everywhere — people are telling me, ‘We’re so happy for you.’”

Gasol will be staying with the Raptors in 2019-20 after he exercised his $25.6 million player option last month.