I went through it. All of it. All five phases of grief passed through me leading up to Kawhi Leonard’s departure. I had held out hope longer than most. Close friends called me a “Stan” in this whole Kawhi debacle.
I accepted DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and Keldon Johnson when Leonard and Danny Green left.
I even rooted for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals. I mean, Toronto deserved to win, I loved their team, respected Leonard’s talent, and was totally over seeing the Golden State Warriors continue to lather, rinse, and repeat.
It gave me a sense of pleasure that if the San Antonio Spurs couldn’t benefit from the talent of Kawhi, he could at least dismantle a team. Come to think of it, every time Leonard collects a Finals MVP trophy, the best player on the opposing team walks away and leaves the Conference champs to flail in the wake.
Watching him at the podium after that final game, I felt that his greatness benefited from coaches, players, and staff of a team I love. And when hobbled away after a season of load management (after missing the greater portion of the season before), I thought to myself, “Kawhi Leonard’s career is over, but no one has bothered to tell him yet.”
How wrong I was, seeing how he’s played this season. Though I do believe the league has seen the best of Kawhi. He’s still great and will be great, but he will most likely never be as great as he was before Zaza Pachulia ended his season — quite possibly the first domino in the unraveling of his relationship with San Antonio.
Don’t get me wrong, things could have, should have been handled much better.
But the vitriol is old.
The booing every time he touches the ball is unnecessary.
The hatred is passé.
It’s time to move on.
It’s time to treat him like just some player on another team who needs to be shut down in order for the Spurs to win.
James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic.
See what I did there? You’d hardly even notice. And as quiet as he is, he’s not even saying stupid things to aggravate the situation.
Did you see his commercial? “Reign Over L.A.” My wife said New Balance was trying too hard to make him look relevant. I thought it was funny that nothing about the spot really said Los Angeles. It was as arbitrary as he is.
I’m over the Kawhi Leonard hate, especially at the AT&T Center. Sans a postseason series, he won’t be back to town this season. So let’s take the rest of this season to do our thing, he can do his thing, and next year, let’s let bygones be bygones.
I’m gonna kick of 2020 with a New Year’s resolution I think I can stick to.
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