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Kawhi Leonard Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

Say what you want about the months-long saga with the San Antonio Spurs, the unexpected trade nearly 1,500 miles north to Canada, or even the delayed post-trade statement. Seeing Kawhi Leonard in a Toronto Raptors jersey is just really weird, and it’s going to take a lot of time to get used to.

For seven seasons — with an NBA championship, NBA Finals MVP, and a pair of NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards along the way — the 6-foot-7 Leonard took the Western Conference by storm and made the Spurs one of the toughest outs in the league every single night. Yet, something wasn’t right, and a trade to the Raptors was the result this offseason.

It was hard to believe at first, and still is for many, but the trade truly became a reality Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto when Leonard dropped 24 points, 13 rebounds and two assists in 37 minutes in the Raptors’ 116-104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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The season opener was the Leonard of old and not the player who only played in nine games during the 2017-18 season due to a nagging quadriceps injury.

Leonard was fierce, a dynamo in fast breaks, and crafty in pick and rolls. He is an immediate fit for new head coach Nick Nurse, a great complementary piece for All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, and a more than suitable replacement for All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, who was sent to San Antonio as a part of the July blockbuster trade for the small forward.

Speaking of which, it was strange seeing DeRozan in a Spurs jersey, too.

Only time will tell if Leonard helps Toronto get over the hump in the Eastern Conference, and if this is a good fit or just a loan until he hits free agency. But even if this is a long-term thing, it doesn’t change the fact that it was weird seeing him in a Raptors jersey right now.

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Author placeholder image About the author:
With over 10 years of sports writing experience, Brett has covered some of the top local, regional, and national sporting events in the Heartland for both print and digital platforms. He is a graduate of Kansas State University and resides in Austin, Texas.
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