OPINION: Spurs prepare for life without Leonard

Our long regional nightmare is now over. 

And no, I’m not talking about iHop’s shameless marketing “iHob” gimmick. We all knew it was a trick and sure enough it was. 

Instead, basketball fans were finally given closure to the drama surrounding former San Antonio Spurs Kawhi Leonard and the “will he or won’t he leave” saga. 

According to reports, the Spurs traded Leonard to the Toronto Raptors for Demar DeRozan, ending an uncharacteristically tumultuous season for a San Antonio franchise that had kept out of the limelight. 

By no means, however, is the closure gratifying for Spurs fans. 

Losing Leonard will make an impact on the Spurs for some time to come. The franchise had hedged its bets on Leonard, who in his first season looked the heir apparent to Tim Duncan or David Robison, ushering talk of possible future championships.

All of that ground to a halt when Leonard essentially sat out the entire season in 2018. Reasons are still unclear why that was the case, whether it be struggles to return from a quadriceps injury, or disagreements with coaching staff and personnel. 

Spurs fans were the ultimate victims in this behind-the-scenes ballet of ineptitude. It brought with it a level of disappointment Spurs fans haven’t felt in nearly 20 years. 

However, losing Leonard may not be without its upside. 

Over the course of his nine seasons in Toronto, DeRozan averaged more than 34 minutes per game and played in 60 games or more during that timeframe. 

Offensively, DeRozan offers an impressive field goal percentage, averaging just under 20 points per game. 

But can he fit in with a Spurs lineup that seems to be going through some changes this offseason? 

It remains to be seen if Manu Ginobili will return for another season, making him an almost ageless wonder. Having guards Patty Mills and the recently drafted Lonnie Walker IV could give a boost to the franchise. 

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol will be called upon to be the leaders in a conference that got just a little more difficult the last few months. 

Yes, there are many questions still to be answered for the Spurs as they move on with life without Leonard. 

But one has to wonder with all of the uncertainty in 2018, perhaps 2019 will be a more fruitful season.

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