A “lack of trust” led to Kawhi Leonard demanding the Spurs trade him last summer, according to his uncle.
The 27-year-old star, who spent his first seven seasons with San Antonio, appeared in just nine games in 2017-18 because of an injured right quad and reportedly had a tense relationship with the Spurs throughout his rehab process. Leonard then asked San Antonio to move him and he was eventually sent to the Raptors in July.
Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson, discussed the events leading up to the deal during a recent interview with Yahoo Sports. Robertson is Leonard’s “primary career and business strategist,” according to Yahoo.
“I think it just became a lack of trust,” Robertson said. “They didn’t believe Kawhi couldn’t play and that caused a lack of trust in us and then us not believing in them. Any time a player says he’s not capable of playing, you should believe him. Why would Kawhi just stop playing all of a sudden? He’s a competitor. Sometimes you get these team doctors telling you what you can and cannot do, and Kawhi was just in too much pain to get out there.
“This was a serious issue. They didn’t believe him, and after that, the relationship couldn’t recover, and we decided we had to move on.”
This season, the Raptors finished with a 58-24 record and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, where they dropped the first two games to the Bucks. Toronto, however, rebounded with four straight wins and will now face the Warriors for the championship.
Leonard was phenomenal for Toronto in the series against Milwaukee as he averaged 29.8 points and 9.5 rebounds over the six games.
“We’re a humble family and we’re just enjoying the moment,” Robertson said. “Most people would say it’s vindication, but I’m not sure about that. But it was nice that we kept our mouths shut and just let everything play out. And for Kawhi, to take all the negative press he received and to focus on taking the East and taking each series game by game, it’s a big deal. Making it to the Finals is a big deal. This is a team that has never been to the Finals and we’re happy about that. It feels good with what we went through last year.”
Leonard is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent after the season.
“For Kawhi, he’s going to take it one day and one game at a time,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports. “We have a championship opportunity in front of us. We’re not thinking about free agency. It’s the Warriors (right now). Once we get through the season, we’ll turn our attention to free agency. But we’re just having fun right now. This has been a great year.”
Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Warriors and Raptors will tipoff Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.