Marc Gasol 'Can't Blame' Kawhi Leonard for Leaving Raptors, Joining Clippers

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IAugust 17, 2019

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 30: Marc Gasol #33 of the Toronto Raptors and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors high-five during a game against the Golden State Warriors during Game One of the NBA Finals on May 30, 2019 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Marc Gasol holds nothing against Kawhi Leonard for choosing to leave the Toronto Raptors in free agency and sign with his hometown Los Angeles Clippers. 

"You can't blame the guy for wanting to go home," Gasol told Marc Stein of the New York Times ahead of his native Spain's exhibition game against Team USA Friday night. "If you tell me I can go [to] Barcelona and make an absurd amount of money and play in the NBA ... I understand completely and respect it and wish him the best." 

Gasol and Leonard made history together in Toronto last season as the Raptors claimed the franchise's first NBA championship. 

The 34-year-old center, who is still under contract with the team through next season, mirrored Raptors head coach Nick Nurse's opinion on Leonard's free-agency decision.

"I think you can't blame a guy for wanting to go home," Nurse told reporters at Las Vegas Summer League on July 7. "That's what he texted me today. 'I'm going home.' And I just said, 'You've changed a lot of lives, man, by what you've accomplished in Toronto. Mine especially.''' 

Leonard signed a contract with the Clippers for three years and $103 million with a player option in the third season, per Shams Charania.

However, in an interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols on July 24, Leonard admitted he was "very close" to either signing with the Lakers or returning to the Raptors until the Clippers successfully traded for Paul George.

Having already won two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVPs, there's arguably nothing left for the 28-year-old to accomplish other than bringing his hometown a title. With the Clippers specifically, Leonard has the opportunity to bring two separate organizations their first championships in respective franchise history.