- Will the Raptors’ latest hire convince Kawhi Leonard to stay?
- Toronto is doing everything it can to keep its newly acquired star
- Vegas has taken notice and has shifted its odds accordingly
In less time than it takes to age a steak, it appears as though the Toronto Raptors are pulling out all the stops to make sure the transition for Kawhi Leonard to the North side is a long term one.
And training camp hasn’t even opened yet.
On Wednesday, just 20 days after sportsbooks released odds on whether the Raptors were going to trade their prized acquisition, there was a sudden line shift, when this news broke:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 21, 2018
Jeremy Castleberry has been a friend of Leonard since the pair were teammates in high school. He also played with Leonard at San Diego State, where he was a walk-on. He’s been with the Spurs since 2013 as a video coordinator. He’ll assume the job of player development coach with the Raps.
Hey raucous Raptors fans, that light you see, is that a flicker of hope?
Odds Kawhi Leonard Will be Traded by Raptors by Deadline
This appeasing of stars is not new in the NBA. The most recent case of this came out of Cleveland, where LeBron James was famously known to get his people into positions with the Cavaliers’ front office. And once he left, his people followed.
A bit of bookkeeping: asst athletic trainer Yusuke Nakayama (moving back to Japan), performance specialist Alex Moore (moving back to Australia) parted ways w/ CLE, sources told ESPN. Also, as expected, Randy Mims and Mike Mancias, who work closely with LeBron, have left the Cavs
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 12, 2018
It’s not even new in Toronto. Former favorite son Vince Carter was able to land a parking spot at the arena … for his mother. Though it was later rescinded in a wild soap opera that culminated in Vince getting dealt.
How is that going to fly with this edition of the Raps? A squad that won 59 games en route to the top seed in the East, they’ve been known for being pretty selfless and, for lack of a more extravagant word, together. Does star treatment on a team shake the foundation?
By all accounts, Jeremy Castleberry is more than qualified for this position with Toronto. The Spurs didn’t want to lose him. But it will be interesting to see if the Castleberry hire, which was essentially done for Kawhi Leonard, leads to resentment among Raptors players/coaches https://t.co/NWcQdbm5pw
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) August 21, 2018
This move signifies to me that GM Masai Ujiri dealt franchise player DeMar DeRozan for one of the top five players in basketball (if healthy) without a plan B, because he hasn’t thought that far ahead yet. This is the play.
Being armed with a contract that offers $50 million more than the next best offer isn’t enough.
And as we’ve become aware in recent years in the NBA, being armed with a contract that offers $50 million more than the next best offer isn’t enough. You need to show your star that, big picture-wise, this is the place.
Perhaps if Leonard were interested in speaking some, fans and bettors alike could get a gauge on what’s going on, rather than speculation of goodwill between the two sides.
Masai Ujiri staring at his phone deciding when the right time to call Kawhi to set up an interview pic.twitter.com/xtrBJhPi4B
— JellyTalks?? (@TalksJelly) August 21, 2018
At least we know Leonard is putting in work, and not in the witness protection program. He was spotted at UCLA this week, with Castleberry (far right), and a couple of other dudes you might know.
Apparently there was an interesting workout at UCLA today… pic.twitter.com/WglSlSec1a
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) August 21, 2018
While all of this is encouraging, it’s still going to come down to whether the guy can play and how he meshes in his new digs, with this tightly knit crew.
Barring a verbal commitment from Leonard, it will take the Raps absolutely setting the league on fire (think something like 40-8ish at the All-Star break) to really consider title chasing with no safety net beyond this season.
Making a deal and getting some valuable assets to build around is the way to go, rather than lose him to either LA team for nothing.
Nothing changes here, except an extra stack on your payout. I believe he’s still getting dealt.