Menu

Ujiri: Kawhi is ‘best two-way player in the NBA’

0 Comment


When Masai Ujiri made the decision to trade Toronto Raptors franchise icon DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard last summer, he knew it was a decision that — from outside the organization — would come with a lot of second-guessing.

DeRozan was beloved here, a California kid who chose to make Toronto his home, and had led the Raptors to the best stretch in franchise history. Leonard, meanwhile, was coming off a season when he only played nine games for the San Antonio Spurs because of tendinopathy in his left quadriceps, and it was unclear he’d be willing to stay north of the border past this season, given his looming free agency this summer.

But Ujiri made the move for one reason: He thought Leonard was the best player in the world. And when Toronto’s president of basketball operations got Leonard into the building, he knew right away the questions about Leonard’s health — and his ability to once again play at the highest level — would go away.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“Kawhi’s quiet but he’s relentless. I tell you, his work ethic is almost crazy [with] his regimen, taking care of his body and doing all the work. … When you see the preparation throughout the season you know what this kind of player, or you feel what this kind of player is going to produce. You don’t wish this kind of injury on anybody, but you could tell with him it was a priority to get back to the highest level.”4

Leonard certainly has done that. The dynamic two-way forward has powered Toronto’s run to its first NBA Finals appearance with a scintillating postseason full of highlight moments — none bigger than his shot that bounced off the rim four times before falling through the net a full two seconds after the final buzzer sounded in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The result: Leonard has launched himself back into the conversation as being the best player in the world. Ujiri believes Leonard is the only correct answer in that debate.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Ujiri announced that to a delirious crowd here at Scotiabank Arena during the trophy presentation on Saturday night following Toronto’s Game 6 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, and doubled down when asked Wednesday why he believes that to be the case.

“I don’t know that any of those people will argue with me that he’s the best two-way player in the NBA,” Ujiri said, “and when we talk about basketball, we’re talking about playing on both ends.

“I feel that if we put him on both ends of the court, he has the ability to be the best player in the league. That’s where it came from.”

Leonard’s performance during the playoffs has only given strength to that argument. He is averaging 31.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, shooting 50.7 percent overall, 38.8 percent from 3-point range and 87.5 percent from the foul line, and providing the elite defense Ujiri referenced

It also has given belief to the Raptors that, despite going up against the heavily favored Golden State Warriors — who are on a quest to complete the first three-peat in almost 20 years — they have a chance to win the first championship in franchise history.

Tags: , , , ,