TORONTO: Kawhi Leonard may have been receiving some personalised instruction heading into the NBA season from Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
Leonard, who has been trying to get in playing shape all summer before starting the season with the Toronto Raptors, was spotted with Bryant, as well as several members of the Raptors organisation, during one recent workout. The evidence was shared in a group photo on Raptors assistant Phil Handy’s Instagram account.
Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP who played seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, was traded to Toronto in July along with Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Pöltl.
Rumours that Leonard might eventually wind up with the Lakers continue to persist. He also worked out at UCLA in August with LeBron James.
Handy was a Lakers assistant coach during Bryant’s reign and a Cleveland Cavaliers assistant before James moved on.
Leonard, who only played in nine games with the Spurs after he injured his quadriceps before the 2017-18 season, also has purchased a house in the Toronto area, leading some to believe the Raptors will do what they can to sign the All-Star to an extension.
“We are who we are. We are going to be prepared, we are going to make things as smooth … I think you want to be genuine, you want to be real,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri recently said on Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast regarding what might work in Toronto’s favor. “You know, this is who we are. We might not be the best ones in weather, but we might be the best ones in many other places: the diversity, the city, the uniqueness of a place like, fans, the atmosphere. … And then you have to put the basketball together.”
“Maybe before, the basketball wasn’t a part of it, but I know there’s a part of him that I’m sure thinks this team has a chance. With his teammates and seeing how hard these guys are working. We have to show who we are. There is no fake sales job here – this is what it is.”