Kawhi will be the next great test of Toronto’s place in the NBA

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How the best basketball players in the world answer this question governs the entire power structure of the NBA.

No two players hold every team in the same regard, and the impressions of these teams fluctuate day to day. But it’s not hard to identify which organizations can be found on the good list, which ones reside on the bad list and which are in between. Who can get an audience with the summer’s marquee free agents? Who struggles to retain their homegrown stars? Which teams do the best players feel offer them the best chance to achieve their professional goals?nfl nike jerseys cheap china

In fairness to the people who run these organizations, the playing field isn’t level. They can’t account for market appeal or championships won decades ago. But for those not on the good list, like the Toronto Raptors through much of their existence, making it there is the singular mission of the franchise and its ownership. 8

Getting and remaining on the NBA’s good list requires bold risk at precarious moments. That’s ultimately how organizations legitimize themselves, particularly those without the advantages held by teams like the Lakers. The Celtics traded away a championship core and consigned themselves to a rebuild with future assets but no guarantee of success. The failure of the Hawks to do so with their 60-win team in 2014-15 has delayed their quest to land on the good list. The 51-win Warriors in 2013-14 fired a head coach held in esteem by their best players in favor of one who’d never coached an NBA game. It was one of many moves that bought Golden State a generation on the good list.

The Raptors are pacing Leonard, sitting him for one of two games of any back-to-back. This is more than just a precautionary measure made in consultation with Leonard; it’s a collective acknowledgement that the Raptors are playing for May and June. Healthy habits will be developed over the course of the season, young players — from whom much will be demanded in the playoffs — will build confidence, and sure, the No. 1 seed carries an advantage in the spring. But Leonard at 100 percent the second weekend in April is the primary objective.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

For good reason, too: If risk yields reward and the Raptors win the conference title that has eluded them despite consistent regular-season success, the probability of Leonard’s return to Toronto increases dramatically. But for all the sound acquisitions, the willingness to do well by Lowry and DeRozan at contract time, the stable culture, the savvy management, the roster depth, the well-oiled coaching operation and the increasing Toronto-philia, Leonard is the ultimate test of whether the Raptors can firmly cement a spot on the NBA’s good list.

Admission into that club doesn’t inoculate a franchise from headaches. But those challenges for Toronto can be confronted with a confidence that says to the league, “This is where you want to work.”