VANCOUVER—Danny Green admits he didn’t think it would take this long.
But he had some advice Friday for Toronto Raptors fans waiting on tenterhooks to learn whether Kawhi Leonard will keep his mantle as King of the North.
“Get your popcorn out.”
Green, who is waiting for his NBA Finals MVP teammate’s free agency decision before he chooses where to play next season, told a crowd in Vancouver that adoring fans, and time spent playing together could be factors in a “very good pitch” for Leonard.
“I think the fans around your city, your organization, are very important. It makes you feel like a priority, it makes you feel at home,” Green said, speaking at a meet-and-greet event in this city’s Dunbar neighbourhood.
Green said he talks to Leonard — who has maintained a low profile over the last week despite elaborate attempts to track his every move and brainwave — from time to time. But he, like the city of Toronto and the rest of the country, is still waiting for a decision.
“Has it surprised me? No. Did I think it would take this long? No,” he said of Leonard’s deliberations over whether to stay and play for the Raptors, or leave for either the Clippers or Lakers in Los Angeles.
Green said the potential for greater team cohesion next year could be a reason for Leonard — and himself — to stay in Toronto.
“When you get more time together you gel more,” he said. “I’m sure (Raptors president) Masai (Ujiri) is using it. I’m not in the meetings so I wouldn’t know but it could be a pretty good pitch.”
The 32-year-old free agent was in Vancouver as part of a basketball skills camp tour, which has also included stops in Montreal and Winnipeg. He had high praise for the kids and parents participating in the camps, and said both he and his family travelling with him were enjoying the tour.
He said he doesn’t know what will happen with his basketball camps in Canada if he decides to play elsewhere next season.
“Hoping we don’t have to take it out but if things turn out differently we might have to change but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Green said.
Raptors fans showed up in droves to meet Green on Friday. A spokesperson for the London Drugs location where the signing took place said the people lined up to meet the player totalled close to 250.
Fans eager for a signature from the two-time NBA champion presented Green with everything from photos, shoes, basketballs, and even a miniature jersey — which happened to be worn by a three-month-old baby.
The first in line was 35-year-old Ferdinand Manzano, who said he had been there since 3:30 a.m. Manzano said he’s loved the Raptors ever since he immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in the mid-1990s.
“To have the championship and to have (Danny Green) show up here is just an amazing part of my life,” he said about 30 minutes before being let in to meet the player.
The love from the fans was not lost on Green, who said he believes Vancouver should have its own NBA team once again. On Friday, there were some Grizzlies jerseys sprinkled among the Raptors swag in the crowd. The Grizzlies franchise pulled up stakes in 2001, moving to Memphis.
“Vancouver’s a wonderful city, it’s very nice, a great fanbase and probably better than a lot of other cities that we have in the States but who knows,” he said.