The Spurs traded star forward Kawhi Leonard and shooting guard Danny Green to the Raptors for shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick. Leonard asked the franchise to trade him last month, preferably to a Los Angeles team. While this does not guarantee that Leonard will join the Lakers, it certainly takes the five-year super max out of the equation.
Leonard reportedly doesn't want to go to Toronto and DeRozan doesn't want to leave Toronto - although he ripped Raptors management for a betrayal, so all his warm and fuzzy feelings likely have gone south from The North. DeRozan was the long-term piece and if he was still in the equation then maybe the Raptors would have a good pitch. That's no disrespect to San Antonio - the Spurs are a model franchise and Gregg Popovich is a coach nearly anyone would want to play for - but DeRozan rather would have stayed in Toronto.
But to understand why an executive might do that, you have to consider where the Toronto Raptors were before the early hours of Wednesday morning. It made no sense. Except the Spurs never had any intention to trade him to another West Conference team, and especially not after the Lakers signed LeBron James.
Plus, the Lakers didn't have the sort of assets the Spurs would have wanted for an elite player like Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard, who has one year and $20 million left on his current contract, spent last season feuding with Spurs coaches and executives while nursing a somewhat mysterious series of injuries.
His early sparks of greatnessDeMar hit a game-winning fadeaway jumper to defeat the Orlando Magic
"I've got Brandon Ingram coming up in his prime and the Kuzmas and the Balls and the Harts".
It's useful, too, to recall that the two high points of Carter's time in Toronto might very well have been his win in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest and the signing of his contract in the summer of 2001. But after getting swept in the second round by Cleveland, the Raptors decided massive changes were necessary - first the firing of coach of the year Dwane Casey, and now the trading of a perennial All-Star who once famously declared "I am Toronto".
Can Leonard get them over the hump? One exec said "Boston is the best team" in the East.
Well, we still don't, but now at least we know what they weren't willing to part with for the disgruntled Spurs star. And when, after sudden regular-season success was met with some early playoff struggles, it was easy to see the merit in Ujiri's decision to stick with his core group.
That's a player worth the risk.