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Past adversity has Raptors, Kawhi Leonard appreciating the present

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TORONTO – He doesn’t need your self-help books or inspirational quotes.

He’s not in search of a mantra. He doesn’t need to be reminded about the power of a clear and present mind.

He lives it every day, even on days like this, the biggest days you can have in a basketball life.

Kawhi Leonard may be able to stay in the moment better than your average person, better than your average NBA player. But that’s not because the past isn’t always present, a handy reminder of how quickly things can change, paths can get diverted or history can be rewritten.

How no matter how certain things seem, they can pivot on a dime.

All of Raptors nation is gathering, hoping, and planning in advance of Monday night. Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena against the Golden State Warriors with the Raptors leading 3-1 is less a basketball game than a communal campfire, a prelude to a summer of celebration.

All they can do is look forward and watch their dreams play out in an endless loop in their mind’s eye.

If it’s possible to die from anticipation, we might find out.

But in the eye of the storm, closest to the fire, Kawhi Leonard knows that looking ahead does no good, only harm.

All he has to do is look back.

A year ago he wasn’t on the verge of playing for an NBA championship. He wasn’t answering questions about what a title would mean for basketball in Canada ("I’m not really sure") or about rumours about buying property in Toronto ("No, it didn’t. It didn’t happen yet, no.").

Last June he was injured, coming off a nine-game season and wasn’t completely sure he’d ever have an opportunity like this again.

"The year I had last year and then just being able to play in the Finals this year has been great. But I’ve been happy just being able to return to basketball [since] the beginning of the regular season," said Leonard on Sunday.

The experience has allowed him to further calm an already quiet mind. His mental discipline has been enhanced by additional perspective of how fragile it all really........

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