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Champion Raptors have nothing left to add to Kawhi Leonard recruiting pitch

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TORONTO — Since the Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard last summer, they’ve tried to control everything they could control.

Leonard met immediately with Raptors head coach Nick Nurse at their club’s practice facility and began sketching out his role in the offence. Director of sports science Alex McKechnie mapped out a plan to help him return to full health and ideally be ready to play his best basketball in the post-season.

When the chance came, they made bold in-season acquisitions to help nudge one of the NBA’s best teams further down the road to a championship. And when they won the Larry O’Brien Trophy — which Leonard has re-christened the ‘Larry OB’ — they partied like rock stars, first in San Francisco and then in Las Vegas. Drake was the master of ceremonies.

Everything has worked perfectly.

On Monday morning in downtown Toronto the final piece of their recruiting pitch will be staring at Leonard in the face as an estimated two million fans in the NBA’s largest, most fevered market are expected to line a parade route that begins at their state-of-the-art Drake-branded practice facility on Lakeshore Boulevard before ending at Nathan Phillips Square, where people have been camping out all weekend from a prime spot.

And if a championship ring, a Finals MVP trophy, an opportunity for a five-year, $190-million contract — a year longer and $50 million more than what any other team can offer — and millions of people chanting his name can’t convince him to run it back with the Raptors?

Well, what else is left to do?

That will be the reality facing the Raptors and their fan base in the coming weeks as the NBA’s free-agent period kicks off on July 1, with Leonard as the biggest prize.

You can love all you want, but that doesn’t mean a relationship is........

© Sportsnet