Kawhi Leonard’s return to San Antonio not just another game


From the moment Kawhi Leonard stepped on the AT&T Center floor and was met with a chorus of boos, Thursday night belonged to DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs.

Leonard spent seven seasons with San Antonio, but the relationship soured in a freaky last season that saw him play just nine games due to a quadriceps injury. No, not at all.

This has been billed as one of the biggest National Basketball Association games of the season since the schedules were released, but until recently the Spurs hadn't been holding up their end of the bargain.

And his old coach, I'm guessing, will always have a special place in his heart for Leonard for what they accomplished together. The diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of the injury created unrepairable tension between Leonard and the Spurs. After a wild post-season in which the Spurs savagely traded Leonard to Toronto after a dramatic season (remember he wanted to be in LA), and the Raptors gave up their loyal DeMar DeRozan, emotions were running high.

As Leonard heard it from the crowd, DeRozan was filling up the box score to the tune of 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.

"I had no idea he was that good of a passer, but he's been one of our better guys playing downhill, attracting a crowd and finding teammates", Popovich said. He was booed during a tribute video the organization played to honor his and Danny Green's accomplishments with the franchise.

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"I felt badly about it", Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. DeRozan is averaging just over 23 points a night, but lately has been stealing Lowry's game plan and bumping his assist totals.

Toronto Raptors have a 28-11 record (17-22 against the spread) so far this season and now sit in the second place of the East.

It wasn't much fun for Leonard and the Raptors, who saw a three-game winning streak snapped in inglorious fashion.

Maybe we should have seen this coming.

Popovich told reporters in late November he thought Leonard was a "great player, but he wasn't a leader or anything" during his seven seasons in San Antonio.

"I can't speak for him, but I know it's definitely not just another game, for sure".