Kawhi Leonard isn’t in Kansas — or Toronto — anymore.
Adored in Canada all last season through the Raptors winning their first-ever championship, the new Clippers star was mercilessly booed in his first game with his new team Tuesday night in Los Angeles. It was a Clippers home game, but it was against the Lakers, whose fans remain bitter Leonard went with the Clippers in free agency instead of teaming up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Boos rained down on Leonard during pregame player introductions, and as he tried to address the crowd on a microphone before tipoff fans’ boos drowned him out.
“I just heard a loud noise,” Leonard told reporters. “I was just trying to be as loud as I can. I wasn’t sure if people, the Clipper fans were being loud or if it was the Laker fans. I didn’t pay attention to it too much. I was just trying to let the fans know the appreciation we have for them for coming out tonight.”
While Leonard, 28, missed his first two shots as the Lakers got out to a 13-2 start, the reigning NBA Finals MVP responded to the negativity by finishing with a game-high 30 points on 10 of 19 shooting with six rebounds, five assists and two steals in the Clippers’ 112-102 victory.
“He was intense,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Leonard. “You could feel that. You could feel the intensity. There’s no doubt about that.”