The Spurs have turned up the heat defensively, improving their points allowed per possession from 1.098 to 1.074, good enough for 20th in the league. He said he felt betrayed, especially since he wanted to retire as a Raptor. "We always have in the past".
Leonard's former teammate Patty Mills also brushed off any hint of animosity. This will mark the first time Leonard is back in San Antonio since his departure from the organization this offseason.
Asked about the possibility that Leonard could be booed by Spurs fans, Popovich said he hoped the former NBA Finals MVP would be given an easy ride.
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"I think that goes with the kind of people the community of San Antonio are, and the class, and how family oriented the city is". Leonard was traded this offseason alongside Danny Green in a deal for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick. We have just got to embrace it.
It certainly wasn't at Vince Carter-back-to-Toronto levels of fan vitriol, nor was it at the same screech that greeted other villains like Chris Bosh, Tracy McGrady or Damon Stoudamire.
The 32-year-old has now missed nine of Toronto's last 10 games with the injury. "I'm expecting this to be a playoff-type atmosphere in here, on the road, really loud, not very nice - the things that you will see in the playoffs".
DeRozan, who is averaging 22.9 points, indicated he likely will feel different when he returns to Toronto as a visiting player for the first time on Feb 22.