Kawhi Leonard has reached the NBA Finals in his first season with the Toronto Raptors following his trade from the San Antonio Spurs.
Leonard's uncle, Dennis Robertson, spoke with Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports about the historical moment of reaching the Finals with the Raptors.
“We’re a humble family and we’re just enjoying the moment,” Robertson said. “Most people would say it’s vindication, but I’m not sure about that. But it was nice that we kept our mouths shut and just let everything play out. And for Kawhi, to take all the negative press he received and to focus on taking the East and to taking each series game by game, it’s a big deal. Making it to the Finals is a big deal. This is a team that has never been to the Finals and we’re happy about that. It feels good with what we went through last year. We have to be happy. He said it best with all the work he's put into his craft: He’s ready for this moment. What he accomplished was amazing. That’s what stars do. How he’s handled everything on and off the court is well deserved. It was nice to see him fight through all the adversity and he’s earned every minute of this.”
Robertson was also asked about the deterioration of Leonard's relationship with the Spurs.
“I think it just became a lack of trust,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports. “They didn’t believe Kawhi couldn’t play and that caused a lack of trust in us and then us not believing in them. Any time a player says he’s not capable of playing, you should believe him. Why would Kawhi just stop playing all of a sudden? He’s a competitor. Sometimes you get these team doctors telling you what you can and cannot do, and Kawhi was just in too much pain to get out there. This was a serious issue. They didn’t believe him, and after that, the relationship couldn’t recover and we decided we had to move on.”
The Raptors were not on Leonard's list of teams prior to the trade.
“When you are initially traded somewhere you didn’t asked to be, you don’t want to accept it,” Robertson said. “But once you get through that period, the focus then turns to giving your all and performing at a high level. It never had anything to do with the city of Toronto. It wasn’t. Toronto is a beautiful city. Kawhi has often spoke highly of Toronto. It’s a beautiful place. That was just an initial reaction, which is normal. But we’re enjoying this run and looking forward to the Finals.”
Robertson was then asked about Leonard's free agency plans.
“I can’t get into other free agents and other teams, but for Kawhi, he’s going to take it one day and one game at a time,” Robertson said. “We have a championship opportunity in front of us. We’re not thinking about free agency; it’s the Warriors [right now]. Once we get through the season, we’ll turn our attention to free agency. But we’re just having fun right now. This has been a great year.”