Ujiri, who pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade last summer for Leonard, adds that he “has the ability to be the best player in the league.”
Kawhi came over to Toronto in a blockbuster swap for DeMar DeRozan, and led them to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
“Honestly, as soon as we made the trade, I thought that,” Ujiri said Wednesday morning at a pre-NBA Finals news conference. “… He made it clear that his health was a priority for him. It was a priority for us, and to see the progress … just his mindset when he came into the building, and into training camp, the work he did in the summer, coming into training camp, and the work he’s done all year.
“Kawhi’s quiet but he’s relentless. I tell you, his work ethic is almost crazy [with] his regimen, taking care of his body and doing all the work. … When you see the preparation throughout the season you know what this kind of player, or you feel what this kind of player is going to produce. You don’t wish this kind of injury on anybody, but you could tell with him it was a priority to get back to the highest level.”
Ujiri announced that to a delirious crowd here at Scotiabank Arena during the trophy presentation on Saturday night following Toronto’s Game 6 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, and doubled down when asked Wednesday why he believes that to be the case.
“I don’t know that any of those people will argue with me that he’s the best two-way player in the NBA,” Ujiri said, “and when we talk about basketball, we’re talking about playing on both ends.
“I feel that if we put him on both ends of the court, he has the ability to be the best player in the league. That’s where it came from.”