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Kawhi Leonard to face former Toronto Raptors teammates for first time Monday

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The most common question for the Clippers this season — “What’s been the most surprising thing about Kawhi?� — usually draws a response similar to Paul George’s Saturday: “He actually does talk.�

JaMychal Green recently said he, too, was surprised to be hearing Kawhi Leonard’s voice at work every day — but that’s because he didn’t expect the two-time NBA Finals MVP to leave Toronto.

Entering this summer’s free agency whirlwind, Leonard was fresh off leading the Raptors to their first NBA title in June and earning stature as the basketball king of The North.

“The only unexpected thing for me was him coming to L.A., to the Clippers,� said Green, for whom Leonard’s arrival solidified his own decision to stay put. “I really didn’t think he was gonna go. I thought he was gonna stay in Toronto … or go to the Lakers. I really hadn’t heard too much Clippers talk, so it was unexpected.

“But I feel like he made a great choice.â€�

Leonard will face his former team for the first time Monday, when the Raptors conclude their two-night stay at Staples Center with a game against the 6-3 Clippers — who, after adding Leonard and George, were anointed this season’s favorite to win a title, which would also be a franchise first.

Leonard has been generally spectacular in his seven games as a Clipper, averaging career bests in points (29), rebounds (8.1), assists (5.4), blocks (1.1).

The 6-foot-7 fun guy from Moreno Valley has taken over in crunchtime with an NBA-leading 13.5 points per fourth quarter, immediately making a major impact with the league’s second-highest usage rate (39 percent), behind only Houston’s James Harden.

Leonard also has sparked debate about load management when he missed two games in an effort to manage an ongoing patella tendon injury in his left knee.

“I gotta do what’s gonna make me healthy and is going to help the team be successful, and that’s me being able to play basketball games for us,â€� said Leonard, who, remember, missed 22 regular-season games last season, a strategy that helped prepare him for a long postseason of heavy lifting: 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 steals and 39.1 minutes over 24 playoff games.

He went out a champ.

“It’s not like he left on bad terms, really,â€� Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s one of those leave-good situations, not one of those leave-awful situations. And let’s be honest, in our league, it’s usually the other way. He’s had the benefit, the rare benefit, of being able to leave in a happy state.â€�

He continues to hear support from grateful Canadian expats and tourists whenever he encounters them, which happens more than Leonard expected it would, he said.

He also said he’s kept an appreciative eye on his former teammates as they rocketed to a 6-2 start, propelled by Pascal Siakam’s 27.9 points per game and OG Anunoby’s 3-point shooting (54.5 percent).

“They’ve been playing well,� Leonard said. “I haven’t got a chance to catch every game, but the games I catch, they’re playing well. Obviously they’re the next team that we’re going to play, so you see what they’ve been doing, but they’ve taken off where they left off.

“OG’s finally getting a chance to play every game, a lot of minutes, so his improvement is just going to keep getting better, as well as Pascal. Him being the No. 1 option is great for him, he’s just going to learn and keep growing.�

As much as Leonard appreciates those guys and all his Canadian fans, there’s just no place like home.

“I’m able to see my family after the games,� Leonard said. “I’m in Southern California. Beautiful weather. I’m right at my house. Everything’s been good.�

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