Kawhi Leonard and Steph Curry are ready for the spotlight in the NBA Finals
Fred Jeter | 5/31/2019, 6 a.m.
If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, Toronto aims to keep NBA star Kawhi Leonard well fed and happy in Canada.
A cluster of Toronto eateries have agreed on a “Ka’Wine & Dine” program to schmooze Leonard, the Toronto Raptors’ unmistakably great basketball sensation. Leonard becomes a free agent as of July 1.
Leonard has been told not to reach for his wallet. Everything is on the house.
Another catch phrase is “Wine him, dine him, let’s re-sign him.”
There’s more. Other businesses have offered auto service, legal help, Uber rides and even free use of a luxury condo. Toronto wants Leonard to stay that badly.
It’s easy to see why. The brilliant 6-foot-7 forward, with hands the size of dinner plates, has guided the Raptors to previously unchartered land — the NBA Finals.
Upstart Toronto will face the perennial kingpin Golden State Warriors in a series final that starts Thursday, May 30, and is sure to pack Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena as well as garner a new breed of TV fans, many of whom speak French.
Canadians haven’t been so excited since the transcontinental railroad laid down tracks more than a century ago.
Leonard, obtained by the Toronto Raptors last summer from the San Antonio Spurs for DeMar DeRozan, filed a typically jaw-dropping performance in the Raptors’ Game 6 win over the Milwaukee Bucks to clinch the NBA Eastern Conference title last Saturday, May 25.
Nicknamed “The Klaw,” Leonard had 27 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocked shots in the Raptors’ 100-94 triumph before another full house including can’t miss entertainer Drake.
Canadians are hoping Leonard and his band of merry men can steal from the “rich” Warriors and give to the “poor” Raptors franchise in its first NBA Finals.
If there’s one man anymore front and center than Leonard at the Raptors home games, it’s Drake. In the Eastern Conference title game against the Bucks, the back of Drake’s shirt read: “Kawhi me a river.”
Tears will flow all over Canada if their marquee leading man should pack up and leave. The Raptors minus Leonard would be like Royal Canadian Mounted Police without their horses.
Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry will be coming “home,” sort of, in the upcoming Golden State versus Toronto series.
Curry lived one year in Toronto when his father, Dell Curry, was playing for the Raptors from 1999 to 2002. The Curry family lived in an apartment overlooking Lake Ontario.
As a small eighth-grader at Queensway Christian College, Curry became a junior varsity sensation, earning the nickname “Pipsqueak Prodigy.”
The Currys moved to Charlotte, N.C., the next year.
The Warriors are the first NBA franchise to reach five straight finals since the Boston Celtics in the 1950s and 1960s and they’ve done it without two key components. With big men Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins missing much of the playoffs with leg injuries, Curry has averaged 27.3 points throughout the Warriors’ series wins over the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Portland Trail Blazers.
The return of Cousins, who averaged 17 points and nine rebounds during the regular season, and Durant, MVP of the last two NBA Finals, would make the Warriors the top-heavy favorite this go-round.
Golden State has become the gold standard of pro hoops. Soon, the team may be fitted for yet another crown. Considering everything, it should be made of gold.