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Rick Zamperin: Kawhi thanks Raptors, Clippers owner ‘pumped’ and ‘fired up’

Los Angeles Clippers team chairman Steve Ballmer, center, presents a new team jersey to Kawhi Leonard, right, as Paul George looks on during a press conference in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Nearly three weeks after the native Southern California superstars shook up the NBA by teaming up with the Los Angeles Clippers, the dynamic duo makes its first public appearance.
Los Angeles Clippers team chairman Steve Ballmer, center, presents a new team jersey to Kawhi Leonard, right, as Paul George looks on during a press conference in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Nearly three weeks after the native Southern California superstars shook up the NBA by teaming up with the Los Angeles Clippers, the dynamic duo makes its first public appearance. AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

Kawhi Leonard is now officially a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, and a former Toronto Raptor.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP joined new teammate Paul George at their introductory news conference Wednesday in L.A. where Clippers owner Steve Ballmer proclaimed he was “pumped” and “fired up” to welcome the two superstars to his club as it attempts to climb into the championship contender conversation and out of the shadow of the L.A. Lakers.

WATCH: Clippers owner Steve Ballmer ‘pumped’ and ‘fired up’ at Kawhi Leonard news conference

Steve Ballmer can’t stop screaming at Kawhi Leonard press conference
Steve Ballmer can’t stop screaming at Kawhi Leonard press conference

Leonard joined the Clips after agreeing to a three-year contract worth just over $103 million, ending a mountain of speculation as to where the 28-year-old forward would land.

Just as he did when he originally joined the Raptors, Leonard’s first comments since he kept the basketball world guessing which team he would sign with were understated and matter of fact.

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The soft-spoken Leonard made it a point to thank the City of Toronto, the franchise and Raptors fans in his opening statement Wednesday, a thoughtful and heartfelt message that will cement what will be an incredible reception for when he returns to Scotiabank Arena for the first time next season as a Clipper.

READ MORE: Toronto Raptors hungry to repeat as champions, even without Kawhi Leonard: Fred VanVleet

Leonard also revealed why he chose the Clippers over the Raptors and Lakers, saying he “loved the Clippers as a kid.”

But beyond that, Leonard — who guided Toronto to its first NBA title just over a month ago — is up for a new challenge.

The Clippers, just like the Raptors up until this past season, have never won the Larry O’Brien Trophy, let alone played in an NBA Finals.

Raptors fans will always have a special place in their heart for Kawhi and will respect the fact that he wanted to play for his hometown team and for the franchise that he grew up idolizing.

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