The Toronto Raptors on Saturday extended their appreciation to Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for helping lead them to their first NBA championship, hours after the two departed for rival teams in Los Angeles as free agents.
Leonard agreed to a four-year, $142 million deal with the Clippers, while Green is heading to the Lakers on a two-year, $30 million contract.
“We are very thankful for the year that Kawhi and Danny played with us here in Toronto, and I know the city and the entire country of Canada are grateful for everything they did to help us to win our first NBA Championship,” team president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “On behalf of the Raptors, I say a very heartfelt thank you to Kawhi and to Danny, and we send them and their families nothing but good wishes. As an organization, the Raptors will focus on the future and continue our pursuit of a second championship.”
Toronto fans woke up Saturday to the news of the departures, disappointed in particular by the loss of Leonard. Fan reaction flooded social media, and by Saturday afternoon, the top 10 trending searches on Twitter in Canada had to do with the Raptors, The Globe & Mail reported.
Mayor John Tory took to Twitter to thank Leonard for his year in the city.
“Our #KawhiWatch has ended. #ThankYouKawhi for the NBA championship that you helped to bring to Toronto with your @Raptors teammates. #ThanksKawhi #WeTheNorth,” wrote Tory, who recently gave Leonard the key to the city.
He also posted a video that wished Leonard luck and said, in part: “Kawhi, you brought us a championship, and that’s important in the city. We haven’t had so many of those in recent times. ... We’ll still love you, but there’s going to be no mercy when you come back here and play our Raptors. Because they’re going to be in it, and they’re going to win it again. We just wish we could do it with you.”
Fans across social media expressed their appreciation to Leonard. One fan, Simon Riopel, said, .”..Canada will always be grateful. You’ve brought more than we could even ask for. Thank you Kawhi, all the best in SoCal #KingInTheNorth #ThankYouKawhi”
—Field Level Media