Fred VanVleet believes Kawhi has earned right to go wherever he wants

Arun Srinivasan

Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to their first title in franchise history and his peers don’t believe he owes anyone anything after lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy on Thursday.

Leonard’s impending decision on where he goes is the subject of league-wide speculation, but for now, he can rest easy knowing that the Raptors have his back.

“I don’t leave anything in the air, so I joked about Kawhi about that since the first time I talked to him,” VanVleet said during Sunday’s press conference.

The Raptors have done all they can to ensure Leonard remains with the organization now, and VanVleet didn’t appear too concerned about the team’s pitch to him in the coming weeks.

“There's nothing more we can do. We did it. The city did it...I would assume he knows what's here and what makes this place special,” VanVleet said.

It’s not all peace and love, however. VanVleet is ready to square off against any team Leonard potentially joins over the summer.

“We’ll have to kick his ass next year,” VanVleet said about Leonard, if he goes elsewhere.

The Raptors’ guard also revealed he sprained his thumb and didn’t want to make it public until the Finals were over, telling reporters that he may see a specialist if he visits New York.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse also took the podium Sunday but didn’t want to dive too deep into his superstar’s impending decision.

“I think he had a good season and people like him here and we can give him a good deal. I don't know if I'm even allowed to comment on my own guy,” Nurse told reporters.

Winning changes the entire equation, and if Leonard stays with the Raptors, he’ll be further lauded as arguably the most influential athlete in Toronto sports history. If he goes elsewhere, he remains beloved, by teammates, coaches and fans alike. It’s anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that he’s earned the chance to do whatever he pleases.

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