06/18 09:43 CDT Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade
Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade
By IAN HARRISON
TORONTO (AP) --- Fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA
title, Kawhi Leonard received the key to the city at Monday's championship
parade and rally.
For now, however, the two-way star and two-time NBA Finals MVP isn't saying
whether he'll use it to keep a door open or close it behind him and move on.
Leonard spent several days partying with his teammates in Las Vegas and Los
Angeles after last Thursday's Game 6 clincher over Golden State, returning to
Toronto in time to ride in one of five open-top double-decker buses that
carried the Raptors along a crowded parade route.
A three-time All-Star and two-time NBA defensive player of the year, Leonard is
expected to decline the player option on the final year of his contract and
become a free agent. Toronto can offer him a five-year deal worth around $190
million, one year and some $50 million more than any other team.
Before stepping on stage Monday for a ceremony in the square outside Toronto's
City Hall, Leonard said he hasn't been thinking about his future. Instead, he's
trying to extend the celebratory vibe as long as possible.
"I'm enjoying this" he said. "It's not time to stress, it's still time to have
some fun. I've just been enjoying my experience."
After two months of playoff basketball, Leonard doesn't have a lot of time left
to be a fun guy --- free agency gets underway at 6 p.m. Eastern on June 30.
"I'm going to take the right time," he said. "You don't need too many days to
figure it out. We'll see what happens. Once that time comes, then we'll all lay
the pros and cons out."
Visibly bothered by soreness during stretches of the Eastern Conference Finals
against Milwaukee, Leonard declined to say how much pain he endured en route to
winning his second career title.
"We're always battling through things," he said. "You know, knee pains, ankles,
fingers. Everybody was just grinding it out."
Injured for all but nine games in his final season with San Antonio, Leonard
played 60 regular-season games for Toronto and 24 more in the postseason,
upping his minutes once April arrived.
While winning the Larry O'Brien Trophy was an obvious success, Leonard said he
has enjoyed all aspects of his season north of the border, even the varied
"It was a good experience, experiencing Mother Nature, all four seasons," he
said. "Man, it was a great experience. Everybody off the court was great. The
fans, just meeting people in Canada. It's been fun."
Fans chanted "Stay! Stay! Stay!" when Toronto Mayor John Tory presented Leonard
with the key.
Later, the festive mood of the event was marred by gunfire. Four people were
shot, leading to a stampede. Three people were arrested and two guns were
recovered, police said.
Leonard is one of three Raptors starters with uncertain futures. Center Marc
Gasol also has a player option, while guard Danny Green is a free agent.
Guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet and forward Serge Ibaka are heading into
the final year of their contracts.
Ibaka and Leonard have become friends in their time together as teammates.
"I've been talking with him a lot during the season and in the playoffs, but
after we won, I can see the man is happy," Ibaka said. "That's the most
important. We play this sport because we want to enjoy and have fun and be
happy and be somewhere people love you. I'm sure he feels that people here love
him, and after this moment, that's the most important."
Lowry attended the parade wearing a game-worn Damon Stoudamire pinstripe
Raptors jersey. Stoudamire was the first player drafted by Toronto in 1995 and
won rookie-of-the-year honors in 1996. Lowry and Stoudamire were teammates in
Memphis from 2006 to 2008.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports