The Kawhi Leonard saga has reached its long-anticipated conclusion.
The Toronto Raptors have traded star guard DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard, a former two-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP winner. Spurs veteran Danny Green is also headed to the Raptors with Leonard while the Spurs get DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick in 2019.
"We wish him well as he moves into Toronto. I think he’ll be great," Popovich said. "I think this trade is going to work out great for both teams. We wish [Leonard] well, but at this point it's time to move on. It's time to move on.
“Kawhi is not going to stop being a great player. But we’re thrilled with DeMar. ... To get back a proven NBA player and a proven All-Star, we have to be thrilled.”
As for dealing Green, Popovich said: "It was hard, he's become a good player. He'll enjoy Toronto."
Popovich, who also serves as coach of Team USA Basketball, also said he expects Leonard to be in Las Vegas next week for Team USA's minicamp and that he is "looking forward" to coaching Leonard there. A recent ESPN report that the seven-year forward is considering participating in the minicamp next week.
Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Raptors and Spurs had been discussing a trade for a while now. A source tells Turner Sports' David Aldridge a long-term stay in Toronto past the 2018-19 season for Leonard is going to be "a very tough sell."
As word of the trade circulated the NBA social media atmosphere early this morning, DeRozan took to Instagram and posted a story there that read: "Be told one thing & the outcome another. Ain't no loyalty in this game. Sell you out for a quick bit of nothing ... Soon you'll understand ... Don't disturb."
As reports involving the Raptors possibly trading DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard escalate, here is DeMar’s IG story: pic.twitter.com/Wbb72mw0qR— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) July 18, 2018
Aldridge reports (via Twitter) that DeRozan is not backing off his claim that Toronto lied to him.
Meanwhile, @DeMar_DeRozan not backing off of claim he was lied to by Toronto regarding a potential trade, per source. Extremely upset.
* Aldridge: Neither player happy with offseason trade
News of the reported deal broke early Wednesday as the Raptors and Spurs reportedly engaged in serious talks involving the Raptors acquiring the two-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year and former NBA Finals MVP Leonard. The details of the trade were still being worked out early Wednesday, but centered on Leonard and DeRozan, writes Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania:
Talks between the Spurs and Raptors have intensified in recent days, league sources said. ...
From the moment Leonard made clear his desire for a trade out of San Antonio, the Spurs have taken a patient, deliberate approach to finding a resolution. Several teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, emerged as suitors, but most NBA executives believed the Raptors presented the best potential current and future package.
Leonard is scheduled to enter free agency in 2019 and has no intention to commit to Toronto long-term, league sources said. DeRozan also has expressed displeasure toward a possible move, becoming aware of the possibility late Tuesday night, league sources said.
Per Haynes (via Twitter), Leonard reportedly has no desire to play in Toronto. And Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz reports (via Twitter) that the Raptors were hesitant to include young swingman OG Agunoby in any Leonard-DeRozan swaps.
DeRozan had spent his entire career with the Raptors (2010-18), emerging as one of the top guards in the Eastern Conference. Since making his first of his four career All-Star berths in 2013-14, DeRozan has averaged 23.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game in that span. He was named to the All-NBA second team this season and was All-NBA third team in 2016-17.
Last season, he averaged 23.4 ppg while improving a key facet of his game by hitting a career-high 89 3-pointers. He has three years and and $83 million left on his contract, including an Early Termination Option for the 2020-21 season.
Leonard's future has been a subject of league-wide fascination ever since it was first reported he wanted to leave the only team for which he has played. Despite attempts by the Spurs -- including a try by Popovich -- to mend the relationship, Leonard and his camp have steadfastly maintained their distance as the offseason has worn on.
The strain between Leonard and San Antonio built throughout the 2017-18 campaign as the former 15th overall pick dealt with a quad injury that kept him from playing in all but nine games. The unusual recovery time was compounded by his physical separation from the team, as Leonard continued his rehab in New York. His absence was especially notable during the Spurs' first-round playoff exit to the Golden State Warriors. Leonard was then spotted at a Los Angeles Dodgers home game three weeks later.
DeRozan is the Raptors' all-time leader in points scored (13,296), games played (675), field goals made (4,716) and attempted (10,532) as well as free throws made (3,359) and attempted (4,277). He also ranks third all-time in assists (2,078) and second all-time in steals (655).
The Raptors went through a series of changes in the offseason after they were swept in the Eastern Conference semifnials by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Coach Dwane Casey -- the NBA's Coach of the Year -- was fired days after that playoff exit and was eventually replaced by Raptors assistant coach Nick Nurse.
Shortly after Casey's firing, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri said roster changes could be afoot for the team. But, he was quick to point out the timetable for those changes were hardly known at that point.
"It is something we’re looking at ... not saying this roster is perfect," Ujiri said then. "Things we need to do and I need to do to get better. Roster changes is not something I can change today. Sometimes [it takes] takes 2 months, sometimes a year, sometimes two years.”
Los Angeles had long been reported as Leonard's preferred destination. Talks between the Spurs and Lakers reportedly took place on more than one occasion, but never gained enough momentum for completion.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.