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Drake ‘mounting recruiting campaign’ to keep Kawhi Leonard in Toronto

With #KawhiUpdate and #KawhitotheLakers both trending on social media all day Tuesday, it seems the Raptors are playing their biggest trump card in the team’s bid to keep NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in Toronto.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Raps “haven’t backed off” in their pursuit of retaining Leonard amidst challenges from the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers and the deep-pocketed Los Angeles Clippers.

But rapper Drake is said to be “mounting his own recruiting campaign on top of whatever the freshly minted champions are doing to convince him to stay.” This follows the team’s championship celebrations in Las Vegas in which Drake flew Leonard back to Toronto on his private plane. The rapper also partied with Leonard during the Raptors’ parade on a float that made its way through city streets on June 17.

3. The Raptors haven't backed off one centimeter and Drake is said to be mounting his own recruiting campaign on top of whatever the freshly minted champions are doing to convince him to stay

— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 2, 2019

With many of the NBA’s biggest stars having inked deals as free agency got underway earlier this week, including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets, Leonard has kept Toronto sports fans hoping that he’ll agree to stay in a Raptors uniform.

Toronto obtained Leonard in an offseason trade with the Spurs last summer when they shipped fan-favourite DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to San Antonio in exchange for one year of the NBA champ and Finals MVP. After landing Leonard, the hope was he’d like the city and want to stay here long-term. Leonard has made no secret of wanting to play in southern California, which is his home.

After bringing the Raptors their first championship in their 24 years in the league, one line of thinking has been that Leonard would want to come back and defend the title. But on the flip side of that, there has been talk that Leonard did what he was supposed to do — deliver a championship — and now it’s time to go home.

When it comes to choosing between the two L.A. teams, Stein says that the Lakers think they are firmly in the lead largely due to the recruitment efforts of James.

What we know:

1. The Lakers, as we've been saying for more than a week now, believe they are firmly in the lead largely through the recruiting efforts and assurances made on separate fronts from Magic Johnson and LeBron James …

— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 2, 2019

Since the end of the NBA season, Torontonians have pulled out all the stops in the hopes that he’ll stay. Some restaurants have a Ka’wine & Dine program in which the superstar can eat for free. Meanwhile, a high-end realtor has offered Leonard a free condo if he sticks around.

In the days after the Raptors’ Game 6 win, Leonard was spotted in Niagara Falls with his family and at a Blue Jays game. In a subsequent trip to the Bahamas, he was snapped wearing a Jays jersey.

Leonard also inked a sponsorship deal with Cargo Jet Airways, the same company that partnered with Drake last May.

In his season-ending press conference, Raptors president Masai Ujiri expressed confidence that Leonard would return to defend the championship.

“Our organization feels confident. And we do feel confident that he will (re-sign). But Kawhi is his own man. He’s shown that since he came here,” Ujiri said.

Toronto can offer Leonard a maximum five-year deal worth roughly US$190 million. The Lakers and Clippers can only offer four years at about US$140 million.

According to ESPN, Leonard has met all three teams, with the Raptors going last. So for now, we wait and maybe say a little prayer for Drake.

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