Former Raptors star Kawhi Leonard thanks Toronto for 'amazing season,' free meals
Forward speaks to Clippers media, calls championship parade 'best ever'
Former Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard turned the page on his time with Toronto's NBA team by publicly thanking the organization, the city and the fans for an "amazing season."
Speaking Wednesday at a press conference introducing Leonard and Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers — Leonard joined the team as a free agent after it acquired George in a trade — the two-way superstar took time to briefly reflect on a season in which he won his second Finals MVP award while leading Toronto to its first NBA title.
"I want to think the Toronto Raptors fans — I don't have social media so I'm not able to put out a paragraph or whatever," the famously private Leonard said. "Thanks all of Toronto, the city, the country. It was a great, amazing season."
Leonard spent just one season in Toronto after coming north just over a year ago in a trade that sent face of the franchise DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs.
WATCH | Kawhi Leonard thanks Toronto for 'amazing season and best parade ever':
It became clear this off-season that Leonard, a native of Southern California, made going home a priority. But he raised the profile of the Raptors considerably during his short stay with the team, as evidenced by the championship parade that drew millions to the streets of Toronto.
"Best [championship] parade ever," he said.
He also thanked doctors in Toronto, where his partner gave birth to their second child, and for the Ka'Wine and Dine initiative at select Toronto restaurants that offered free food for Leonard during the post-season.
"I took advantage of that," he said with a laugh.
The Clippers are hoping their new star duo will deliver a championship or two. While the Lakers used to be known as "Showtime," the Clippers are ready to match them in "Startime."
Leonard signed a three-year, $103 million US deal as a free agent, and George requested a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder with three years remaining on a four-year, $137 million contract.
Leonard recruited George to join him in Los Angeles — George is from Palmdale to the north, Leonard from Riverside to the east — and sees George's two-way game as a good complement to his.
"Now we're on the Clippers and it's just, I think we got something special and we can make history here." Leonard said. "We got the right team to do it ... I'm ready to go."
When it was brought up that the Clippers live in the shadow of the Los Angeles Lakers, Leonard was ready with a counter punch.
"In the last few years, from the basketball standpoint, the Clippers have been better," Leonard said. .".. If we go to the championship and win and we don't get no coverage, that's fine with me."
WATCH | Owner Steve Ballmer is pumped about Leonard and George joining the Clippers:
George, a six-time All-Star, had similar thoughts when the team that lists LeBron James and Anthony Davis on its roster was brought up.
"We got our own identity, we're chasing something else," George said. "We're not looking at the 'Battle of L.A.' We've got bigger things in mind."
George also made mention of his most recent team and expressed his gratitude that the Thunder agreed to send him to the Clippers.
"I'm extremely excited and extremely happy to be back home," George said. "First and foremost I just want to thank the whole Thunder organization. ... It was a great two years there for me. But, ultimately, they helped me find my way back home to L.A., and I'm very appreciative of that moment."
With files from Field Level Media