Kawhi Leonard doesn't directly mention Raptors in letter thanking Spurs

Kawhi Leonard released his first statement since the blockbuster trade that saw the Toronto Raptors land the star forward. Leonard thanked the San Antonio Spurs organization, its fans and head coach Gregg Popovich, but didn't mention the Raptors.

Star forward says he is 'looking forward to the next chapter in my career'

Kawhi Leonard will become an unrestricted free agent next summer and many expect him to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

Kawhi Leonard released his first statement since the blockbuster trade that saw the Toronto Raptors land the star forward.

Leonard — who submitted a letter to the San Antonio Express-News — thanked the Spurs organization, its fans and head coach Gregg Popovich.

But the 27-year-old didn't mention the Raptors in the letter, writing only that he was "looking forward to the next chapter in my career."

Here's the full letter:

I have been going back and forth the last few weeks trying to figure out the right things to say, and it comes down to two simple words: THANK YOU! My family and I want to say THANK YOU to the entire Spurs organization and the people and fans of San Antonio. THANK YOU to every one of my teammates I've played with over my seven years in the NBA. THANK YOU Pop I'll always be grateful for my growth under your guidance. THANK YOU to the fans! There is not a more passionate or dedicated fan base than what I've witnessed in San Antonio. Through all the ups and downs — I'm glad there were many more ups! —I'll never forget what we have shared and accomplished together. While I'm looking forward to the next chapter in my career, I'll always remember the city and the people of San Antonio!

THANK YOU!

—​ Kawhi Leonard

In a trade that sent shockwaves throughout the NBA, the Raptors acquired Leonard and three-point shooter Danny Green last month, while San Antonio received all-star DeMar DeRozan, backup centre Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick.

DeRozan openly criticized Masai Ujiri, claiming the Raptors president promised he wouldn't trade him. Leonard, an unrestricted free agent next summer, reportedly wasn't pleased with the move and many expect him to bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers, joining LeBron James.

Raptors president discusses the trade between the San Antonio Spurs that brought Kawhi Leonard to Toronto. 23:30

Leonard, if healthy, would give Toronto one of the best two-way players in the NBA and a true bonafide superstar.

However, questions remain about the status of a right leg injury that shelved him for all but nine games last season. He was named NBA Finals MVP in 2014 after leading the Spurs to a championship but his relationship with the team deteriorated last season to the point where he asked for a trade.

With files from The Canadian Press

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