This year’s off-season had a slow and steady stream of genuinely interesting storylines, so it’s no surprise NBA’s media week leading up to the first pre-season games are falling in a similar pattern.
The leading story out of the off-season gate, was Kawhi Leonard finally getting his wish granted via trade to the Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately for him, it was a little farther North than the Los Angeles destination he had in mind. Nonetheless, Kawhi seems to be making the most of his Canadian home for the foreseeable future. After years of “Kawhi is a robot” jokes in San Antonio, the 2x NBA All-Star seems ever so slightly ready to shed the stigma. It was there on Raptors media day, that he proved to be aware of his surroundings. Leonard let out a laugh that made the NBA fan base collectively turn their heads simultaneously. While we can note specifically all eight times we’ve seen Kawhi laugh in our time with him, this is by far the most human-like sound we’ve heard from his mouth in over a year since his very public breakup with the Spurs began.
Kawhi was only the first domino to fall of the All-Stars using pre-agency to make their move. Jimmy Butler recently came to terms with the Timberwolves inevitable decline as Tom Thibodeau reincarnates his former Chicago Bulls team. Asking for a trade with the Clippers, Nets and Knicks leading his choices, Butler is only one of many to come to use the last year of their contract as leverage for a desired trade. Miami is currently the leading contender in talks, but with high demands coming from Thibodeau and company, no deal has been reached. Notably missing from media day with an excused absence from the Timberwolves front office, it seems no matter where Butler ends up, the break up with Minnesota is a moving train.
The hometown favorite CJ McCollum wins media week by a landslide, if that is actually possible, when he proposed to his girlfriend and she, but of course, said yes. CJ and Elise Esposito have been together for six years next month and by Instagram accounts, they are the epitome of a normal NBA couple, again I say if that is actually possible. It would appear love is in the air in Portland, as Jake Layman and new addition Nik Stauskas have also popped the question to their ladies.
With pre-season hours away and the Blazers already-infamous season opener against the Lakers in only weeks–and 30 Woj bombs later–it makes me wonder why I ever thought basketball would be gone long enough for me to miss it.