Kawhi Leonard on 2019 Free Agency: 'I'm Not Thinking About That'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 95-86. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Toronto Raptors superstar forward Kawhi Leonard said he hasn't even started to think about his potential foray into the free-agent market following the 2018-19 NBA season.

On Thursday, Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com provided comments from Leonard, who can utilize a player option in his contract to enter free agency after his first campaign with the Raptors.

"I'm not thinking about that," he said. "I'm focused on right now, what this is bringing for me and focused on the opportunity that I have here and what we can do this season. Later down the road, that's when I'll make my decision."

Leonard, who was limited to nine appearances for the San Antonio Spurs last season because of a lingering quad injury, has enjoyed a bounce-back year after an offseason trade to Toronto. The NBA MVP candidate is averaging 27.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists across 30 games.

While the 27-year-old Los Angeles native's return to form makes the Raptors a serious NBA Finals threat out of the Eastern Conference, his long-term future is uncertain.

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Toronto general manager Bobby Webster told Bontemps the organization is confident in the pitch it can make Leonard once he's ready to discuss a new contract:

"When we came aboard six years ago, we wanted to bring this organization to a level where you can make this pitch. So you have strength in excellence around the organization—the basketball side, the coaching staff, the medical and support staff, obviously ownership—to where when we have a superstar player, an MVP-candidate-type player, now we can go to him and say, 'We are really confident in who we are, we're really proud of what we've built, and these are all the reasons why we think you should stay.'"

The Raptors are in position to contend long term with a deep, talented roster, especially if Leonard decides to stick around. Championship contention could help sway the 2014 NBA Finals MVP.

"He always just says, 'I want to win, man,'" head coach Nick Nurse told ESPN. "'I want to be healthy and play. I love playing, and I want to win.' It's not sexy, but it sure is cool."

A lot of other teams probably feel the same way, which is why Leonard will be in high demand if he does hit the open market in the summer.

The two L.A. teams, the Lakers and the Clippers, are most often speculated as his likely landing spots in a potential return to his hometown, and Bontemps reported Thursday that league executives believe his choice will come down to the Raptors and Clippers.

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