Report: Kawhi Leonard could sit out instead of playing for the Raptors

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA world was thrown for a loop Wednesday morning when the San Antonio Spurs traded star forward Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors in a four-player swap (more here).

Toronto had been linked to Leonard more than other team, especially with the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers recently bowing out of the race.

An impending free agent, this move was extra risky for Toronto. It yielded All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan in the deal. And there’s no guarantee that Leonard will re-sign with the Raptors.

Now, according to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, there’s a chance that Leonard could sit out the 2018-19 season rather than play for the Raptors.

“League sources told Sporting News, Leonard has no interest in playing for the Raptors,” Deveney reported. “There have been indications that he would sit out the entire season if necessary, and though that step would be drastic and unprecedented in today‚Äôs game, Toronto has forced the situation into uncharted territory by acquiring a player who has made it clear he does not want to be there.”

How we got here is anyone’s guess. Leonard went from soft-spoken star in San Antonio to something of a completely different beast in the past calendar year. Missing 73 games last season to injury, he obviously wasn’t happy with how the Spurs handled said injury. Now, he’s threatening to sit out the 2018-19 campaign after being traded up north.

One thing is clear: Leonard is not happy about being moved to the Raptors. He’s made it clear, through leaks to the public, that he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Though, following the LeBron James’ signing, reports surfaced that Leonard didn’t want to play for either the Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers.

Either way, this drama has not even started to unfold. And it could have wide-ranging ramifications in what is a weakened Eastern Conference this coming season.