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Inside the awkward final chapter of San Antonio's Kawhi saga



SAN ANTONIO – Marco Casas, 12, got a bit of ingenuity when he rescued his gray Kawhi Leonard San Antonio Spurs jersey.

He did not throw it away.

To fix the problem with Leonard's name tag, Casa covered it with a silver tape strip and wrote "Aldridge" in black permanent markers. On both the front and the back, he stuck a strip of black insulating tape perpendicular to the 2 of the Leonard jersey to finish in 12th place.

Casas, a native of San Antonio, explained how Leonardo's departure in July infuriated him.

"Well, you're my favorite," Casas told LaMarcus Aldridge when the Spurs' big man laughed and signed the jersey.

Two summers ago, Aldridge had applied for a deal from San Antonio. Now he signed an autograph on the modified jersey of Leonard, a player the Spurs wanted to trade when they had no other option, as he made his debut as a visitor to the AT & T Center. This scene before San Antonio defeated the Toronto Raptors (125-107) served as a perfect summary of one of the strangest times in Spurs history when the team finally closed the book on the Leonard chapter in its history.

Several fan bases and franchises I can claim to have experienced a night like Thursday, when a player, in this case Leonard, returns to his former team after he has gone to miserable conditions.

But never in San Antonio, where David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are all retired as Lifelong Spurs, and where Tony Parker is expected to receive a hero when he returns in two weeks with the Charlotte Hornets.

1 Related [19659014] Fans made their voice heard in one of the most unpleasant nights in the history of San Antonio Spurs. They mocked Leonard on each round and simultaneously sang "Traitor" and "Quitter" before directing MVP chants to DeMar DeRozan, who cashed his first triple career double against his former team and reluctantly went into trading in San Antonio sent the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year to Toronto. The truth is that San Antonio has not come this season with championship aspirations like most years under Gregg Popovich. Initially, the goal was to save only what they could get out of the trade they did not even want, and somehow remain competitive.

Now, at 10 pm-5pm, the Spurs are in the middle of a fight for the West, only three games out of second place in the standings.

"It's always easy when you have great people around you who are ready to learn," DeRozan said. "This is a great group of people who are willing to sacrifice everything they need for the next guy, and if you have such a team, karma will definitely be in your favor."

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1:01 [19659019] Kawhi Leonard talks to Gregg Popovich and ex-Spurs teammates after Toronto's 125-102 defeat to San Antonio.

The Spurs entered into this match against the Raptors to minimize possible Leonard distractions, which is the main reason they downplayed the notion that this outing meant more than just a game. Popovich experienced first-hand in November how Leonardo's mention of recent history could turn into a hot-button topic.

Asked for leadership of Patty Mills after the departure of Manu Ginobili and Leonard's trade to Toronto, Popovich provided According to the sources, the former Finals MVP is unintentionally assessed, as is the later Hall of Fame Sentinel Tony Parker, now a member of the Charlotte Hornets.

Popovich said at the time, "Kawhi was a great player, but he was not a leader or anything." Popovich just tried to say that the low-key Leonard, who teamed with veterans like Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, not yet a vocal leader, but focussing on his work

"To know Pop and be with him for so long, he never wanted to make an attempt, Kawhi never did," Parker told ESPN. "That's not Pop's style, I think he just said it was not Kawhi's, you know, because the Big Three were there, but slowly [Leonard] started doing it, that was our goal with Timmy [Duncan] and Manu, so he does it more and more, and when we left, he wanted to do it, and he started to do it, people always want to exaggerate. "

With Leonard out now, where The picture of the strange season 2017/18 of San Antonio was closed, can all parties finally carry on.

Danny Green, also part of the Leonard trade, returned to San Antonio. He was warmly received by fans at the AT & T Center during his warm-up and launch. He embraced a Spurs public relations officer and a member of the security team, and in every clip that showed his face during the tribute video in which both he and Leonard appeared, the crowd cheered.

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1:33

Before the Raptors grid is announced, the Spurs are showing a thank-you video for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

Meanwhile, Leonard was ruthlessly booed all night; even every time he touched the ball.

"I felt bad," said Popovich. "Kawhi is a high-character guy, we all make decisions in our lives, what we're going to do with our future, and he has the same right as any of us, so I honestly felt bad."

When Leonard received the Boos from the ground in the stands, his uncle Dennis Robertson signed autographs for the fans.

Even Leonard's best friend, Jeremy Castleberry, a former member of the San Antonio coaching staff who went to Toronto to join Toronto, walked one arm around a Spurs assistant coach down the hallway.

When Leonard admitted earlier this morning that he "sometimes" wishes things could have gone differently in San Antonio, one has the feeling that he is sincere.

"It was really disappointing for us all, from Pop and our program to our players," Spurs general manager RC Buford told ESPN. "We've had a lot of success with Kawhi, and he was a very, very important part of it, so if you change the circumstances, you'll have to do a lot of self-assessment and self-reflection." It would be irresponsible for me to speak for Kawhi, but I know I know he has always had a great impact and presence in a team environment, and I can only say that he was with us, it was an honor to sit back and share in his development both as a player and as a person. "


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